Towards an affordable and sustainable housing plan for the UBC Community

Dear Colleagues,

During last week’s UBC President’s Town Hall, Professor Stephen Toope identified housing as “the biggest challenge that UBC faces going forward in terms of recruitment and retention both of students and faculty.”  The President and the UBC Board of Governors are committed to build more favorable, more affordable and more sustainable living and working conditions for faculty, students and staff at this University.

The Board of Governors has assigned the responsibility of leading the process of developing a UBC Vancouver Housing Action Plan (HAP) to the Community Planning Task Group (CPTG), based on guiding principles approved by the Board of Governors. The UBC Vancouver Housing Action Plan (HAP) will address issues of housing affordability and choice on campus for faculty, students and staff, and will guide the Board of Governors in future housing-related decisions.

What’s Being Done

We are hoping to capitalize on the amendments to the UBC Vancouver Land Use Plan, which were adopted by the province in March 2011, enabling UBC to increase density and construct a wider variety of housing types on University lands.

We are currently researching existing faculty and staff housing initiatives at peer universities.  Members of the Community Planning Task Group have toured institutional housing at New York University, Columbia, Harvard, UCLA and UC Irvine to learn about the academic, financial and operational aspects of their programs (see initial findings).  Over the coming weeks, I will provide more details about housing programs at these institutions.

UBC’s Campus + Community Planning department is conducting a detailed analysis of faculty and staff data to explore the income and needs profiles of various groups on the UBC Vancouver campus.  This information will be used to evaluate the relative affordability of existing housing options on campus.

UBC staff is meeting with BC Housing for a preliminary discussion on the potential for a partnership in the delivery of affordable workforce housing at UBC Vancouver. Planning for improved and expanded student housing is at a more advanced stage and is supported by the Student Housing Financing Endowment.

For the CPTG, a key focus around student housing is the shelter portion of the BC Student Loan program.

Next Steps

First, we need your input! You can either send us your contribution through the comments section (below), or by participating in the various “Housing fora” planned around the Vancouver campus.

The Community Planning Task Group will draft strategic and administrative policies regarding eligibility, rental versus ownership mix, resale considerations, and other issues related to on-campus housing. Feedback gathered throughout the development process will be reported to the Board in early 2012, with the draft UBC Vancouver Housing Action Plan to be presented for Board of Governors approval in April 2012.

We are seeking your help and support throughout this important exercise and YOUR input is needed – please share your experience, comments & suggestions.

Nassif Ghoussoub
Chair, Community Planning Task Group

11 responses to “Towards an affordable and sustainable housing plan for the UBC Community”

  1. Egor

    Asking 1750 dollars a month for studio appartment when Post.Doc. sallary is about 35 000. (2400 a month after taxes) You people are insane.

    I was paying 600 dolars for appartment in center of the city in switzerland.

    You sould build new housing instead of UBC golf field, now one neeed it anyway.

  2. Karie

    I am an admin A M&P and I have worked at UBC for 12 years…I bought out in South Surrey b/c it was somewhat affordable 8 years ago…I would like to buy a 2 or 3 bedroom near UBC, but with a mortgage payment of probably about $3000/mo, and with take home pay of $3100, that is obviously not affordable.
    To get here I need to either drive or bus, and both options take alot of time and money…
    45 min drive (outside of rush hour) and 15 min walk each way, $15 in fuel roundtrip, $10 in parking (total $25 each day x 20 days = $500/mo, plus insurance and wear and tear on the car…total time of 90 mins + 30 mins walking x 20 days = 40 hours per month of travel time)
    1:30 on the bus, 2 buses, 15 min wait time and 15 min walk each way…$8.20 rountrip (total $8.20 x 20 days = $164/mo and 80 hours per month of travel time)…and dealing with speeding and rough-driving bus drivers, and during the school term, probably not getting a seat and having to stand for 3.0 hours per day….

    Also…getting into UBC sometimes feels like getting into fort knox…there is never enough parking (can sometimes circle around for 25 mins looking/waiting for a spot)…and we are expected to walk everywhere…wasting unnecessary time….

    my two cents…

  3. jesse

    OK so providing some affordable housing on campus is noble but there’s a scaling problem here. First how many units would need to be built to house faculty and staff in affordable housing? The effort seems to be gargantuan at first pass, the university can only currently house a fraction of its denizens and can only dent the problem.

    It’s also true that many people are unwilling to live in campus-provided housing and want something more than a cramped townhouse or condo, and that dream is decidedly out of reach for anyone not already invested in Vancouver real estate.

    If UBC is serious about providing housing solutions for its faculty, staff, and students, it needs to start dealing with the stark reality, that the city the other side of the Park is in a giant speculative housing bubble and for the most part unaffordable by mere mortals or those unwilling to bet on perpetually low mortgage rates. UBC has become an island surrounded by expensive housing not in any way indicative of the salaries awarded the residents of the city itself.

    By advocating for a change in housing policy in the city — increasing density through an aggressive zoning regime — much of the strain on UBC Endowment Lands planning can be ameliorated. This will no doubt be hugely unpopular with those entrenched in low-density housing in one of the world’s most desirable cities, but like other lower-density neighbourhoods of generations past — the Kitsilano, Fairview, and West Ends of yore — the low density areas close to UBC need to be rezoned or UBC will continue to suffer massive strains to its budgets and land-use plans.

  4. Martin

    Thanks for allowing us to comment. I propose we fire the campus planners due to their incompetence.

    Housing is too crammed and too unaffordable on campus. I tried it, it is ludicrous — seems someone took a normal blueprint for my apartment, stuck it into a computer, multiplied it by 0.5 and then built it. The result was a pathetic little box good enough for a rabbit, but not a human.

    Then there is campus street design. Those planners should not only be fired, they should be sued for wasting the time of thousands of users of this community. It is impossible to get around campus (unless you walk) or find places (cabs never find my building). Can UBC perhaps hire planners NOT specialized on building obstacle courses? Why can’t they design a campus that functions? I am really puzzled.

  5. Thomas Beyer

    To make housing affordable it has to be VERY DENSE, i.e. high-rises OR accessible by rapid transit. UBC needs both, however not everyone wants to live in a high-rise such as those planned on S-Campus which is not very family friendly.

    The BEST SOLUTION is a high speed rail based subway / train system connecting into the existing Canada Line at Broadway/Cambie and SkyTrain at Commercial/Broadway [and later along 4th Ave to Kits & downtown direct, and 41st through Kerrisdale]

    Later, to connect to (be built) subway lines to W-Van, N-Van and Fraser Valley (Langley, Surrey, Abbotsford, Mission)

    The UBC campus is on a peninsula that has to be connected to the Metro Vancouver area WITH URGENCY. Vancouver trails other Asian or European cities by a mile or 10 ! You cannot expect cheap housing when housing close to Vancouver is expensive ! You have to go further out .. but also provide high density solutions on Campus.

    The S-Campus plan is sub-par, but a start. It lacks vision, it is too dense, it has no view tower, it has no sub-way, it has no streets wide enough for cars .. it shows the poor planning capacity of UBC Campus Planners. They need more international talent, folks that have done it before. Those you can find in Europe or Asia, maybe GTA even.

  6. The problem with developing a “Housing Action Plan” for UBC (II) – Cash Flow | Piece of Mind

    […] the future of the university and is committed to addressing it. The President said as much in his latest town hall meeting, and the Board of Governors did after all set up a task group to develop a “Housing Action […]

  7. Marce Franz, Professor, Physics

    I was unable to attend the forum but I heard enough from colleagues who did attend to be disappointed and discouraged by the options that were presented. It is clear to me that to forestall the severe housing crisis that is currently brewing at UBC a wise and bold action plan is needed. I very much doubt that anything short of committing the remaining land to protected faculty/staff housing will make a significant positive impact. I also doubt, unfortunately, that UBC top admin will have the resolve for such a bold action.
    We hear that even very senior hires (dept heads, CRCs) are unable to afford reasonable housing in Vancouver. We hear that junior faculty members are leaving UBC because they have no hope of finding adequate housing. If this is not a crisis then I am not sure what would qualify.
    We hear that Board of Governors approved a new round of densification of housing on campus. This to me sounds like a code word for more luxury highrises. I personally know of no UBC faculty or staff member who lives in one of the existing luxury highrises. In fact, strangely, despite living on campus for the past ten years I don’t know ANYONE who lives there. Why in the world would we need more of these? How does the resulting `Lexus community’ contribute to the long-term strategic vision of UBC as a world-class university?
    Number of contributors already stated this but it is a key point and I will reiterate. What we urgently need on the UBC campus is sensible housing — mixture of low-rise apartment buildings, townhouses and green spaces — that is attractive, *affordable* and *permanently restricted* to UBC faculty and staff. What we absolutely do not need is more market housing. We have more than enough of the latter and it has not helped to resolve the crisis. We have none of the former and it is desperately needed.
    So, as with many things in life, it is quite clear what must be done. Will we have courage to do it?

  8. I.P., Staff, Faculty of Arts

    I was unable to attend but my supervisor did. He came back quite discouraged. One sadly obvious display of UBC’s real attitude to it’s lowly employees was the lack of any checkbox for “Staff” on the feedback forms. Faculty, emeriti, student were included but clearly UBC feels “Staff” does not even rate for contributing to the discussion. I do wish they would either commit to real action or stop even calling it Faculty and Staff Housing. I do think the centre is concerned with attracting the best and brightest faculty but look at admin and support staff as easily replaceable and thus can either suffer the commute or work elsewhere. Just call it Faculty Housing and be done with it. It’s very depressing.

  9. Anonymous

    I attended the forum last week and came away perplexed.
    In my experience a development plan has a schedule and a budget. I saw neither of these in the presentation.
    I, like many who spoke at the forum, have a young child. Every day my child takes up more and more of the limited square footage in which I have to live. If affordable housing (in whatever form it takes) is six months to a year away, I may wait. If it is five years away, or more, then that information may inform my decision to continue working at UBC. The lack of a timeline and a clear commitment to meet concrete milestones to deliver the program was disappointing.
    Similarly, the response from the panel that a budget has not yet been established for this program is discouraging. If there is a $10 million dollar commitment over the next 10 years to fix the housing problem at UBC that says one thing. If there is a $50-$100 million commitment over the next 5 years, that tells a different story. Providing no information at all indicated that the plan is not well developed and a real solution for the people in that room is a long ways away.
    I would argue that giving people a list of options on which to comment, without giving them a timeline or budget in which to frame that discussion, is not a great way to manage the expectations of the stakeholders. Hopefully we will see these missing components soon.

  10. Anonymous

    Re: UBC Staff & Faculty Demand Study (McClanaghan & Associates) commissioned by Campus Planning.

    I did not attend the housing forum, but recently had an opportunity to review the UBC Staff & Faculty Study. As read this document, I came across one particular section where I found an error with respect to the salary range of UBC full-time staff.

    Page 7, Section (g) UBC Rental Portfolio Rent Levels states:

    “Virtually all fulltime staff earn more than $40,000…”

    If it was the intention of the author (s) to say that virtually all fulltime staff who responded to the survey only earn more than 40,000, then that should be clearly stated. If that is not the intention, and the author (s) were making the assertion that everyone employed fulltime (unionized or not unionized) by UBC earns more than $40,000, then that is an incorrect statement. I know this to be the case, because I, along with a few other fulltime unionized staff members do not earn this amount.

    When a study such as this one is made available online for public consumption, then it is important to be absolutely certain that not only is the material clear and concise, but ensure that facts are in fact accurate and truthful.