UBC Expands First Year Housing Guarantee

The news coming out of student housing recently has been nothing short of wonderful. On Tuesday, the university announced the creation of the Student Housing Financing Endowment, which funnels profits made by UBC Properties Trust directly into providing debt financing for new student housing projects. It’s hard to understate the importance of this announcement. It provides dedicated funding to student housing, allowing those projects to jump to the very top of UBC’s priority list, increasing the number of residence spots as quickly as they can be built. As the UBC strategic plan is fond of saying: “It’s easy enough to make a promise, but it takes commitment to see it through.” This is a very deep commitment to meeting the promise of 50% of undergrads housed on campus and it’s exciting to watch it get started.

In another fantastic change, two months ago SHHS quietly expanded their First Year Housing Guarantee. Previously there had been a geographical restriction excluding students from the lower mainland from the guarantee but given the excessive commute times from the suburbs many of those students may as well have been from out of town. That restriction has been removed and now almost all first year students coming in directly from high school are guaranteed residence at Totem or Vanier, regardless of where they are from. It’s another exciting change, made possible by the opening of 566 new beds at Totem in time for September.

Guaranteeing residence to all first year students acts as an added incentive in recruiting students to UBC, giving all incoming first years the opportunity to have a holistic university experience, and relieves a lot of stress for students coming from outside the lower mainland who will not have to arrange alternate accommodations from far away. It also acts as a bonus to those students living in the GVRD who can use the time they would have spent commuting, upwards of an hour and a half for many, for studying and getting involved in university life. If we were AMS Confidential, Andrew Parr would be our #1 dreamboat Admin crush.

And one final piece of news on the student housing front: SHHS will be taking over the operation of Fraser Hall from UBC Properties Trust. UBCPT will still own the property, but SHHS will lease it from them. However, the way the residence operates is not expected to see any outward changes.


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  1. More beds and more housing generally is a very good thing.

    I may be wrong, but if they’re expanding the first year student guarantee, doesn’t that mean there’ll be fewer spots available for second, third, and fourth-year students? So won’t more second-years get kicked on to the interminable wait list and to off-campus housing?

    Posted by TLG | February 10, 2011, 9:34 am
  2. Yes, it will definitely mean less second, third and fourth years will be able to find a spot on campus. With the new guarantee Totem and Vanier will become almost exclusively first year. So will Rits, which is currently housing some older students but is being made a part of Totem next year to help with the new demand for first year beds.

    Posted by Grey Squirrel | February 10, 2011, 10:03 am
  3. So that means no one reading this article will directly benefit from this?

    On behalf of everyone who is still in high school, YAAAAAAAAAYYYY!!!

    Posted by Michael C | February 10, 2011, 2:43 pm

    Posted by ~*~Sexy Brunette~*~ | February 10, 2011, 7:31 pm
  5. Tim, it does unfortunately mean fewer spots for upper years. While 566 spots are being added, there is still a finite supply with a very long waiting list.

    However I do feel that residence, for those who live there, helps define the university experience, is a great way to make friends and is a great way to ensure students are engaged with campus even if they ultimately move off-campus is subsequent years. Giving this opportunity to every first year is something I completely support.

    As well, there is a lot of new housing in the pipeline so hopefully those will be directed at upper years students.

    Posted by Neal Yonson | February 10, 2011, 8:24 pm
  6. This policy is f***ing ridiculous. I say let the froshies commute and let give us upperclassmen some semi-affordable housing.

    Posted by Lexi | February 10, 2011, 8:42 pm
  7. Crap. Omit the ‘let’.

    Posted by Lexi | February 10, 2011, 8:43 pm
  8. Neal, I don’t necessarily disagree.

    But for some context, back when I was in undergrad, the guarantee worked the other way around. There was no guarantee of getting in to housing; priority was given to people outside the GVRD and people who got the standard no-frills entrance scholarship (the USP, also gone). However, once you were in, you were guaranteed a spot as long as you wanted one.

    I fought the change at the time. I can recall very long conversations where I’d bitch about it with anyone who would listen.

    Campus life has changed since then. There are a gazillion reasons that have been covered to death, but the sea change in who’s living on campus is, without a doubt, at least a part of it. I was able to stay on campus for three years, including summers, and it became a community that I’m still a part of. Had I been forced to leave after a year, who knows what would have happened? I know one thing – this web site wouldn’t exist (well, its predecessor site at least).

    My guess is that this shift is trading depth of community for breadth of access. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, and I get where you’re coming from. I’m just pointing out the trade-off.

    I feel old. Get off my lawn?

    Posted by TLG | February 10, 2011, 11:20 pm
  9. It is worth noting that anyone planning on spending the summer in Vancouver who would sign a one year contract with SHHS for the Marine Drive residence will probably have no problem getting housing. I have been told if you are able to sign starting in May it is pretty much a sure thing.

    Of course year round is not for everyone (myself included) but giving first years housing seems like the right thing. I know my University experience would have been hugely hindered if I had not lived in Rez in first year. For someone in first year the difference between living on Blanca vs Vanier/Totem is night and day. That being said, first years who live close will likely decline the offer to save money by commuting (then again with the new U-Pass how much will they actually save?)

    This announcement about getting the money to SHHS to build is great! My understanding was that until now there was a debt limit imposed on the University which limited capital for student housing development, even though the debt for these projects is ‘good debt’ as it pays itself off. Anyways hopefully buildings keep shooting out of the ground and the waitlist gets smaller in years to come.

    Posted by Lionel | February 10, 2011, 11:26 pm
  10. Thank you for the original posting, Neal, and to all for your thoughtful comments. I thought I’d jump in with a quick comment for SHHS and UBC.

    This issue really needs to be looked at from a broader planning perspective. About 7 years ago UBC committed to significant growth in the on-campus student housing stock. The result of this plan was the development of 1640 new bedspaces at a wonderful student community called Marine Drive, dedicated to housing 2nd and upper students and well as grad students.

    The next step in this development process, more focussed on 1st year students and created partly for the purpose of eliminating the regional restriction to our 1st year gtee, was the Totem Infill project, bringing 566 new beds on stream for this fall. These new beds, we believe, will cover a significant portion of the additional 1st year student residence population we expect to see at UBC this fall. If more than 566 1st year students are interested in living on campus then we will see the conversion of 2nd and 3rd bedspaces currently at Totem and Vanier to 1st spaces. While we understand this may have an impact on the number of 2nd and upper year bedspaces we believe this is the right thing to do. We are also confident the 1st year demand will not exceed the inventory we will soon have at Totem and Vanier.

    Finally, moving forward, we are in the design and planning stages of adding an additional 1100 2nd and upper year and graduate student bedspaces to campus, coming on line in 2 phases in 2013 and 2015. While we recognize this does not directly benefit students in the next 2 years, one must realize that projects like these take time and significant financial resources. UBC is very committed to realizing growth in our student housing stock and is working diligently to close the gap on our supply and the understood demand.

    Finally, as noted by Lionel, year round housing is an excellent alternative.

    Posted by Andrew Parr - Student Housing and Hospitality Services | February 15, 2011, 9:29 pm
  11. I have no idea what the length of a Fraser Hall lease is, but I’m wondering whether anyone living there will suddenly find themselves no longer governed by the Residential Tenancy Act. (maybe not, the AMS seems to think that Acadia Park is covered, but I have no idea why.)

    Posted by Laura | February 18, 2011, 5:43 am
  12. Am I the only one who’s deeply troubled by this? Funding new residences in this way makes the construction of student housing contingent on that of market housing, creating disturbing incentives for both the university and for students.

    Moving further in the South Gage conversation, for example, the administration can now accurately frame it as a choice between student and market housing. Alternatively, if the administration wants to expand housing, it may feel compelled to liquidate part of its land base.

    Posted by Anonymous | March 8, 2011, 7:16 pm
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