City says TRU must adhere to BC Building Code for proposed temporary student housing

City denies TRU housing ask

The City of Kamloops has denied a request from Thompson Rivers University to set up temporary student housing portables as the units do not meet B.C.'s building code requirements — particularly falling short on standards for fire safety.

In a closed meeting Tuesday, city council voted unanimously to require TRU to apply for a building permit and meet BC Building Code requirements for the proposed housing units.

City CAO David Trawin sent a letter to TRU staff, saying the city wants to ensure that the usual fire, health, safety and accessibility requirements ensured through building codes and bylaws are in place.

“This is to ensure that TRU’s students receive the same level of safe and secure housing accommodations that are assured for all Kamloops residents. With respect, we do not see this as unreasonable in the circumstances,” Trawin said in the letter.

According to the letter, the university asked the temporary portables be exempt from the BC Building code requirements because they would serve as “emergency facilities.”

Trawin said while there is no definition of emergency facility stated in the BC Building Code and bylaws, an exemption is clearly reserved for situations requiring urgent action — such as an event that threatens lives or property.

“The present situation, which involves what appears to be an influx of students, does not meet emergency facility criteria,” Trawin said, noting the city recognizes the seriousness of TRU’s student housing challenges.

“The city is of the view that using temporary housing that does not meet the legislated (and widely accepted) health and safety requirements would exacerbate rather than cure TRU’s dilemma.”

Trawin said approving the university’s request would be an “unacceptable level of risk” for both students and the city.

According to the letter, the city found the university’s proposed units were designed and built as temporary work camps under the Alberta building code, but they aren't up to B.C.’s standards.

The city said the fire alarm system is not designed to the appropriate standard, fire separations between units don’t meet code requirements. The proposed housing does not meet requirements for fire department access routes or proximity to fire hydrants.

In addition, the city said one of the proposed sites for housing is not serviced by municipal utilities and would require a sewage storage tank and water tank to be installed, requiring health authority approvals.

Trawin said the city values its relationship with TRU and will continue to expedite permitting and inspection processes.

“In addition, we are happy to assist TRU in its search for accommodation options by using our various platforms to call for homestay volunteers and facilitating meetings with various local accommodation associations,” he said in the letter.

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