Lambton College confident housing situation ‘manageable’

Lambton College. File photo

Cathy Dobson

Lambton College may be attracting a growing number of students to Sarnia but it isn’t planning to build a new residence for them.

“We are confident the housing situation is manageable,” says Cindy Buchanan, the college’s senior director of marketing and communication.

“We’ve been opening new buildings in a big way. There are no plans for a residence at this time. However it continues to be under review as we look at a longer term plan for housing.”

Sarnia has a growing population of college students, including nearly 1,000 international students this year. At the same time, temporary contract workers are arriving for the Nova Chemicals expansion and other industrial projects.

As a result, City Hall is confronting a rise in the number of illegal boarding houses.

A citizen group called Home Owners Watch Sarnia (HOWS) recently brought the issue to city planning staff. But the problem was already on the radar of City Hall, which is contacting stakeholders and begun a housing bylaw review.

Several homeowners have been convicted of renting rooms in single-family homes to too many people. In one case, 20 students were living in a single home.

HOWS is concerned students will continue to find illegal accommodation if the school expansion continues without it providing residences. Lambton currently has one residence for 280 students on London Road.

Buchanan says “a few” of the residence rooms are not occupied. She also said the Student Administrative Council (SAC) employs a person to assist students with orientation, including help finding housing.

“The majority of international students prefer to have shared apartments or home stays along bus routes,” Buchanan said. “There’s a few who live in residence too.”

Homeowners looking to accommodate visiting students can register with the college by emailing robert.tuer@lambtoncollege.ca.

Buchanan said the list of home stay opportunities hasn’t been be filled by students, suggesting a second residence is not required.

“Sarnia has developed a strong reputation for helping provide a home stay experience to help students with language development and their understanding of the culture,” she said.

Lambton College aggressively recruits students from countries including India, Mexico and Panama for three-year diplomas, and for shorter terms to learn English.

Since 2008, the number of international students enrolled at Lambton has grown from 50 to 965. The college plans to continue recruiting until it reaches 1,200 international students, Buchanan said.

“After that, we don’t expect that figure to increase significantly.”

Total full-time enrolment has risen to 3,400 students, and 60% to 70% are from the local area and don’t require housing.

A small residence that once housed nursing students was vacant for several years in the college’s north building and was demolished this year, Buchanan added.