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UBC unveils plan to provide more housing for students, faculty

UBC’s Katherine White says Vancouver housing costs are ‘absolutely’ a factor when considering a move to the institution.

Rafal Gerszak/Rafal Gerszak

When Katherine White started looking for a home to go along with her new job at the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business, she got a crash course in real-estate conditions.

On four occasions last year, she and her husband put in offers on homes but lost to bids as much as $150,000 higher than the listed price. Eventually they bought a house, but only after an offer from someone who had outbid them fell through.

Now settled in Kitsilano, Ms. White supports a new push by UBC to provide more housing for students and faculty, saying that housing costs and availability are prime concerns for potential newcomers to the institution.

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"It absolutely is a factor," said Prof. White, a marketing professor. "I'm from Vancouver originally, so I wasn't that surprised at the housing market. But I think when outsiders are looking in, and you're coming from somewhere in the United States that has much lower housing prices, even seeing the housing prices here can be a bit surprising.

"It's definitely something that potential incoming professors consider."

UBC on Wednesday announced a housing plan that will reserve up to 30 per cent of future housing stock for staff and faculty.

The biggest chunk, 20 per cent, will be rental accommodation available to faculty and staff at rates about 25 per cent lower than the average rental rates on Vancouver's west side.

The remaining 10 per cent of units will consist of homes for tenure and tenure-track faculty, expected to sell at prices 33 per cent below benchmark prices.

The program will also include a pilot project of up to 100 units of non-profit housing for full-time staff with incomes of less than $64,000 a year.

UBC has housing for about 9,000 students at its Vancouver campus and an additional 3,200 housing units in campus neighbourhoods.

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Future new housing will be built by UBC Properties Trust, which was formed in 1988 and has generated $506-million to date through developments such as Wesbrook Place.

Housing developments are expected to be in line with design and environmental standards adopted by the university and with a 2011 land use plan. The Point Grey campus serves about 34,000 students and is home to about 8,500 of them, as well as to 8,000 full-time residents.

The university is likely to forfeit some profits by reserving some housing stock for faculty and staff, but those losses are expected to be more than offset by the benefits of increasing on-campus housing options, said UBC vice-president of communications Pascal Spothelfer.

"We are competing internationally for top-level faculty," Mr. Spothelfer said on Wednesday. "Being out on the Point Grey peninsula, it's very difficult for faculty who are joining UBC now to find housing that is a reasonable distance from the university."

The housing plan also ties in to UBC sustainability programs by making it possible for more students and faculty to live and work close to campus, he said.

Housing affordability is a key factor when recruiting graduate students, said Richard Price, a senior adviser to UBC president Stephen Toope and a former graduate adviser in UBC's political science department.

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"Another school could offer the exact same financial package that we do and yet that package would go much further in another city than it does here," Prof. Price said.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Wendy Stueck has covered technology and business and now reports on British Columbia issues including natural resources, aboriginal issues and urban affairs. More

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