The fuel gauge on the local rental market will move from empty to full this weekend, as hundreds of university students fill rooms on campus, basement suites and even hotel rooms.
"The parking lot will be jam packed this weekend with trucks and trailers," said Jordan Piper, general manager of Thompson Rivers University's student residence building.
Piper estimated about 200 students are now in the building, including Caley Craven, who just moved in from Coquitlam.
"Everyone's moving in Saturday and Sunday," she said. "It's the calm before the storm."
About 400 more students are slated to move in before start of classes Tuesday.
Craven moved in earlier this week under a program to give some students early access in return for leading tasks. She's spent the past few days decorating hallways and doorways for themes as well as preparing for events, including a barbecue mixer during the first week.
"I've made a lot of friends already," said the first-year sciences student. "They ask if you want to help out. I've done so much stuff and it's only four days here."
The first students started arriving in mid-August. These student advisors are sent to Ontario for a two-week course on being leaders in the residence, acting as police and activity counselors at the same time.
Earlier this week they helped lead students like Craven in preparing for the onslaught of student residents this weekend. International students are also typically moved in already.
Completion of the student residence in 2006 helped alleviate a tight vacancy rate in Kamloops that has since moved upward.
The rate in fall last year was 2.9 per cent. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. analyst Paul Fabri expects that number to edge downward over the next two years - making a tight rental situation worse.
"The vacancy rate is up from three or four years ago but falling," Fabri said.
Rates in 2011 were $694 a month for a one-bedroom apartment to $807 for a two-bedroom unit. Fabri said it's likely they will be largely unchanged in this autumn survey this year.
Also popular for students are investor-owned units with three bedrooms that can be shared, as well as basement suites.
Basement suites, however, provide the No. 1 reason students run into trouble, warns TRU student union executive director Nathan Lane. That's because owners often don't understand rights and responsibilities on each side.
"Let's shake hands and make it work isn't going to work," warned Lane.
The student union helps with student rental issues that typically start at the end of October.
"Basement suites are much more informal and students are looking for a good deal," said Lane. "But the landlord may be coming into the suite or the toilet's broken and been that way for a month."
He advises students and any other renters to sign a formal agreement. B.C.'s landlord tenancy branch has forms available online.
The city's hotel and motel industry has also responded to demand by tailoring rooms for long-term student housing in the off-season.
"All down Columbia Street there's a number of students who have apartments in hotels and motels," Lane said.
"They do a good job in trying to accommodate students. It's symptomatic of the fact there's a shortage of places in Kamloops within transit and walking distance."