New student housing buildings being built at UBC Okanagan

Jul 5 2019, 8:50 pm

The University of British Columbia (UBC) is providing its satellite campus in the BC Interior with some new attention, specifically on the matter of on-campus student housing supply.

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UBC Okanagan will be receiving an $18.7 million loan from the provincial government towards the $25-million cost of constructing Skeena — a 220-unit affordable student housing complex that will help address the Kelowna campus’ waitlist of over 1,000 students.

Students enrolled at the Okanagan campus are also facing a private rental vacancy rate of just 1.9% in Kelowna.

“On-campus student housing offers an opportunity to create connections into a community of peers and other supports. It improves student success and the overall experience of student life on campus,” said Santa Ono, UBC president and vice-chancellor, in a statement.

“UBC offers all first-year students the opportunity to live on campus and Skeena will help us provide opportunities to many more UBC students in the Okanagan.”

Skeena is a six-storey building, with five levels of wood frame construction built above a concrete ground floor. The 73,000-sq-ft building will include amenities such as lounges, study space, activity rooms, and laundry, and it will be constructed to a Passive House green building standard. The building’s design will also be equivalent to the BC Step Code 4, and its net-zero ready energy performance will be monitored by researchers over time.

UBC states it is financing the remaining cost the project from internal sources and will pay the government loan through the newly generated student rental income.

In the 2018 budget, the provincial government announced a $450-million program to help finance the construction of 5,000 new beds of student housing across BC, with much of the funding to be dispersed over the first three years.

Skeena, which will reach completion in the summer of 2020, is the first of two student housing projects being built at UBC Okanagan. Another student housing complex, named Nechako, also with 220 beds, is slated to open in the spring of 2021.

When both projects reach completion, UBC Okanagan’s on-campus student housing capacity will reach 2,120 beds — an increase of 440 beds from today.

In contrast, UBC’s main campus in Vancouver’s Point Grey area currently has 12,000 student beds. This number is expected to increase to 17,300 student beds by 2030, with 3,000 of these new beds to be added to the campus over the coming five years.

This includes the opening of the 650-bed Exchange Residence this summer next to the campus’ main bus loop.

Since 2011, UBC has built 3,200 additional student beds for its Point Grey campus, but it has been unable to keep up with demand, with the annual waiting list for student housing more than doubling to 6,500.

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