New student beds help UBC Okanagan students focus on studies

More student beds at the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Okanagan campus will allow students to rest easy and focus on their studies, rather than worrying about where to live, while easing pressure on a tight rental market.

More student beds at the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Okanagan campus will allow students to rest easy and focus on their studies, rather than worrying about where to live, while easing pressure on a tight rental market.

The provincial government is providing the university with a loan for a 220-unit, on-campus affordable student housing project at UBC Okanagan, helping address the waitlist of over 1,000 students and a private rental vacancy rate of 1.9% in Kelowna.

The new student housing building will be called Skeena, with funding provided through the B.C. Student Housing Loan Program.

“Student housing is more than just buildings, they’re unique communities that support learners as they work towards their career of choice,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. “The expansion of on-campus housing at UBC’s Okanagan campus will reduce the burden in finding an affordable place to live. I’m proud our government is continuing to move forward on our commitment to build student homes throughout the province.”

Skeena will consist of a six-storey building, including five levels of wood frame construction above a concrete ground floor. The 6,750 square-metre building will include amenities such as lounges, study space, activity rooms and laundry.

Skeena is being designed to the Passive House standard, supporting CleanBC, the Province’s long-term climate strategy. Passive House is an internationally recognized, high-performance building standard developed in Germany. Super-insulated “passive” buildings use up to 90% less energy than conventional buildings, dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Skeena will also be equivalent to the BC Step Code 4 (net zero ready) and outfitted as a “living lab,” allowing researchers to monitor its energy performance over time.

The total cost of Skeena is $25 million with $18.7 million (75%) from the provincial government. UBC Okanagan will finance the balance from internal sources and will pay back the government loan through rental income.

“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. “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. Thank you to the Province of B.C. for its support through the B.C. Student Housing Loan Program.”

Romil Jain, president of the UBC Students’ Union Okanagan, said, “It’s great to see the Province investing in affordable student housing. As a student myself, we face incredible difficulty finding affordable housing due to the lack of availability and high rental rate. With so many other pressures, the last thing students should be worried about is residence. I look forward to further investment in this sector to help remove this burden of the student’s mind.”

UBC is also developing a second 220-unit student housing project with dining facilities on the Okanagan campus called Nechako. Upon completion of these two projects, UBC Okanagan will be able to offer housing to 2,120 students.

Construction work has started for both UBC Okanagan housing projects. Anticipated completion for Skeena is summer 2020. Nechako is scheduled for completion in spring 2021.

As part of Budget 2018, the Province announced it is investing $450 million to begin construction of up to 5,000 student homes by 2024.

Quick Facts:

  • The B.C. government’s 30-point plan on housing includes a BC Student Housing Loan Program for public post-secondary institutions that provides access to up to $450 million to help finance student housing projects over six years.
  • Only 130 beds were directly funded by the provincial government between 2001 and 2017. Since 2018, there has been a 1,039% increase, with new student housing at the University of Victoria (782 total, with 620 net new), College of New Caledonia (12 beds), Thompson Rivers University (533), College of the Rockies (96 beds) and UBC Okanagan (220 beds), for a total of 1,481 additional beds.
  • Construction work on Skeena is expected to generate 90 direct jobs and 70 indirect jobs.
  • UBC maintains the largest student housing operation of any university in Canada, offering accommodation for 1,680 students at the Okanagan campus and 11,800 students at the Vancouver campus.
  • UBC is addressing affordable student accommodations at both campuses by creating new student housing spaces for 440 students at the Okanagan campus by 2021 and 2,180 new spaces at the Vancouver campus by 2022, including 651 units opening in summer 2019.


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