The Town of Port Hawkesbury backed a plan to build student housing on the Nova Scotia Community College campus Tuesday.

The college's Strait Area Campus is growing quickly and the area is running out of space to house the students. Apartments charge rents of between $700 and $900 a month and are 98 per cent full.

Port Hawkesbury Mayor Billy Joe MacLean said Tuesday that the NSCC campus is an important part of the local economy.

"You have mostly adult students in the different courses. They go to the restaurants, they go to the bars, they buy food,” he said.

The campus is on a hill at the edge of town. It’s connected by a highway with no sidewalks.

"The walk is quite intense, and long.  And if you look at this past winter, how cold it was? I don't think you would be very encouraged to stay at that school if you had to walk there every day,” MacLean said.

Meeting industry demands

Principal Tom Gunn said the school is looking to grow its nautical institute to meet industry demands.

He said people are coming from throughout the Maritimes and across Canada for the marine training offered at the college.

"We're really planning the growth of the nautical training and we're looking out three to five years with the campus where we want to be.  The residence is one component of that,” Gunn said.

Gunn said getting community support is the first step; next is building a business case. He will take his plans to business leaders to see if he can gather more backing.

The town hasn’t yet put any money behind the idea, as it’s still in the early stages.