Engaging the UBC Housing Action Plan

The British Columbia government has recently approved the amendments to the UBC Land Use Plan that were submitted by the Board of Governors. The plan calls, among other things, for a densification of the university land, in order to address campus residential needs, generate revenues for the UBC endowment, as well as create a vibrant and sustainable year-round university community to support shops, services and transit.

In my personal opinion, the challenge is to try to do all of this without jeopardizing UBC’s future control of its land base, infringing on the academic zone, altering the university character of the UTown, weakening the university’s governance structure of its campus, or creating a reverse traffic flow out of UBC.

I have accepted to chair the “Community Planning Task Group” of the UBC Board of Governors, which will be leading the process of developing a Housing Action Plan for the Vancouver campus. The plan will be guiding the university’s future actions on this front.

One of the main objectives of the Housing Action Plan is to improve housing choices and affordability for faculty, staff and students on the Vancouver campus. This is an objective that I personally feel strongly about, because I believe that it is of the utmost importance for the alignment of future campus housing plans with the academic mission of UBC. For that, we need to develop a plan that will incentivize faculty, staff and students to live on campus. Why?

1.   The UBC campus is relatively isolated from other residential areas in Vancouver, and every year thousands of our students end up on long waiting lists trying to get into the few currently available residences. More of them need to be accommodated on campus, and concrete plans are currently in the works to do just that.

2.   The high cost of real estate in the Vancouver housing market is probably the most significant obstacle to UBC’s aspiration to be a leading research university. There is no doubt that this factor is preventing us from recruiting and retaining outstanding faculty and senior staff. This challenge can be addressed by an action plan that would improve housing choices and affordability for faculty and staff.

3.   We need to minimize the traffic flow in and out of the UBC area, by making sure that a large number of people working at the university have both the possibility and the incentive to reside on UBC land.

4.   One way to protect the integrity of the academic zones, as well as the future of the university governance of its land, is to maximize the number of those affiliated with the university, among campus residents. Another way is to ensure that individuals moving to UBC understand that they will be moving to a university community and all that entails.

5.   Last but not least, I personally believe that working towards these objectives is crucial for sustaining and preserving the unique character of the UBC Town as a university community.

To jump-start the process of developing this housing plan, the community planning task group invites all members of the UBC community to a public forum.

Date:                   Monday, April 4, 2011

Time:                   12:00 noon – 2:00 PM

Place:         GSS Ballroom, Thea Koerner House, 6371 Crescent Road

Refreshments will be available

The forum will explore the challenges and opportunities faced by UBC in creating affordable housing options on campus for its community, and will provide an opportunity for feedback to the Task Group.

Needless to say, we would like maximal community input into some key issues before we begin the development of the plan.  We want to hear directly from the various UBC stakeholders about their needs, their aspirations, and their thoughts on models to explore, in trying to create a vibrant and affordable UBC community.

The process is complex and the parameters to consider are numerous. We have therefore invited the following expert panelists to tell us how similar challenges were addressed elsewhere, and to present various survey results that are more pertinent to UBC”.

  • Craig Crawford, Vice President, Development Services, BC Housing will discuss the regional context for affordable housing development and present the innovative work BC Housing is doing with municipal governments to develop affordable housing.
  • Dr. Penny Gurstein, Professor and Director, School of Community & Regional Planning/ Centre for Human Settlements, UBC will discuss her research on models for affordable housing development.
  • Andrew Parr, Managing Director, Student Housing & Hospitality Services, UBC will present Student Housing Survey results and the challenges and opportunities for affordable student housing development on campus.
  • Lisa Colby, Associate Director, Planning Policy UBC, will present the Staff/Faculty Housing Survey results.

Panelists will present for 60 minutes followed by 60 minutes for comments and questions from the audience — 30 minutes on student housing issues and 30 minutes on faculty/staff housing issues.

Please RSVP to Stefani.lu@ubc.ca by Wednesday, March 30, 2011.

For more information,  visit http://www.planning.ubc.ca/housingaction

This entry was posted in Board of Governors, UBC Housing Action Plan. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Engaging the UBC Housing Action Plan

  1. Charles Menzies says:

    I am not available for the forum April 4th. However, I very much wish to be involved in this process.

    One area that has been rejected continuously by UBC is some form of shared equity housing plan for faculty and staff that would reduce the cost to faculty and staff. Also, options such as housing co-ops and co-housing are ideas that have been suggested but not implemented by UBC in developing housing options.

    In addition there is a serious problem with ramping up the density levels of campus housing. While doing so may add revenue to those who make money off of building housing (and also add some funds to UBC’s treasury) increased housing density will ultimately undermine the quality of life and environment here at UBC.

    Having live on campus since 1996 I have observed first hand the housing boom and effects of the last little while. The key point is that when one compares what is project in the original plans (for mid-campus or Hawthorn Place, for example) one can see that the planners don’t get it. For one thing, the number of children have constantly been higher then the planner’s estimates. We are finally (while maybe) getting rebuilt schools, but it took over a decade of lobbying and pressure on behalf of parents and others in the community. But in the area of open non-programmed space for social use we are going backward despite the planners claims of new and improved parks.

    The infill housing at Totem and Vanier are taking open public space from use. The planned hubs will do the same as they move forward. ‘Saving’ UBC Farm is now being used in a rhetorical and direct manner to increase densities across campus.

    Finally there is problem of a serious and ongoing democratic deficit. As UBC builds up housing it will become even more untenable that rule can occur through a majority appointed Board of Governors. The UNA tries hard, but they are not a government; they serve with delegated authority from the BoG of UBC. While it may suit those in the UEL to operate without responsible government, it seems strange that a ‘world class’ university interested in creating ‘global citizens’ subjects its own residential population to what amounts to a benign authoritarian regime.

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