We have a plan!

A UBC Housing Action Plan that is, which –I believe– will help improve housing choice and affordability for faculty, staff, postdocs, graduate and undergraduate students on the Vancouver campus. Actually, it is still only a discussion paper waiting for your input, before it goes to a final decision by the Board of Governors. We therefore need your help –You present and future UBCers, your children, your parents and your friends– in this final push towards an important milestone in UBC’s relentless march towards the very top of the world’s academic institutions. We invite you to read the Discussion Paper, to learn about the recommended potential housing opportunities and how we developed those options. You may also want to watch the Housing Action Plan video!

The Community Planning Task Group has been gathering feedback and information since April 2011 to help it in the development of these options and opportunities. The process began with a thorough review of UBC’s existing housing programs. Several new options were brought forward for consideration as a result of an assessment of other universities’ and jurisdictions’ housing programs and public input. Faculty, staff, and students have participated actively in three public forums, focus groups, a blog and outreach meetings between April 2011 and March 2012.

Read the Discussion Paper and have your say!

The next phase of public consultation extends from March 20 through April 2, 2012. Visit our Consultation page to participate online or register for a workshop on March 29th. And while you’re at it, you may want to send a little note of appreciation to the folks at Campus and Community Planning for their Herculean efforts on this front over the last eleven month.

Next Steps

Following the close of the consultation period, your input, along with further technical and financial analysis, will help in developing a set of recommended program options to be included in the final housing action plan which will be considered by the Board of Governors in summer 2012.

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

6 Responses to We have a plan!

  1. Nando de Freitas says:

    I’m very glad and thankful for all the excellent work you and other colleagues have put into making this plan a reality.

    To add more to the urgency of this plan, here is the story of how housing problems have contributed to the dismantling of one of the most popular research groups at UBC. Machine learning (aka computational statistics, big data, analytics, data mining, business intelligence) is a popular field. About 20% of grad applicants to computer science want to do machine learning. Moreover, we can’t seem to match the huge industrial demand for graduates in this area. We used to be 3 faculty. One left for Oxford (see his email reply to me below about housing), and the other is in the Bay Area on leave, while considering not coming back partly because of the high local housing costs. I’m the only one left, with a load of 10 graduate students (many could not get a supervisor in machine learning this year). I’m also considering to take leave unless the housing problem is addressed. My family is growing and I’d like to afford a house for them. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that the grandparents are here and that we value having then around to help with the children in the future, I would have taken an offer elsewhere already. I hope there is a happy end to this story … in Vancouver.

    The email of my friend below (which I’ve kept anonymous) also points out to another very viable model: co-ownership outside campus. Though I support campus housing initiatives, I think it is also important to avoid the creation of faculty ghettos at UBC. There is value in having faculty living outside UBC and engaging with other Vancouver communities, such as Kitsilano, downtown, Main, etc.

    ———- Forwarded message ———-
    From: ???
    Date: Mon, Feb 13, 2012 at 2:33 PM
    Subject: Re: Housing
    To: Nando de Freitas

    > How does housing at Oxford work? That is, how does the university help
    > you? I think you mentioned something like co-ownership. Is this
    > information online somewhere?

    I don’t know whether the university can provide any help but your college can. Most colleges propose a shared-equity scheme. My college can put up 160K (pounds). Some colleges are more generous (St Johns), some less generous.

    > Also, are you going to take advantage of it?

    Yes it is very likely. I have really nothing to lose by using it. I can get a bigger house than I could otherwise afford for free. In any case, prices are much more reasonable than in Vancouver anyway, count 650K pounds for a good 3 bedroom house in front of the top state-run school of Oxford (excellent), less than 20 minutes walk from the department and city center. It’s only 450K if you accept in living in a village close to Oxford. That’s almost twice cheaper than Vancouver…

    > The reason I’m asking this is because a few of us here think that it
    > is time UBC starts doing the same. Housing has become prohibitively
    > expensive for our profs.

    Yes Vancouver is complete madness…


  2. Ross Gentleman says:

    While the discussion paper and other efforts are commendable, I still find the problem(s) is not well defined. In particular, there appears to be a heavy reliance on anecdotal evidence. Even this input from an academic with obvious credentials in statistical methods opts to use the experience of two colleagues only, from which I would be reluctant to extrapolate too much.

    I would respectfully suggest that the problem be defined in quantifiable terms, which could then also be used to determine future targets and related performance measurement practices. Is there a faculty recruitment and/or retention problem that relates to housing costs? If so, how is it presenting? What is the best way to measure the extent of the problem? (Are we able to confirm by trend or comparative analysis that this is a significant problem?) What should the target(s) be so that we can say the problem is under control?

    Section 3 of the discussion paper does provide some selected data that, in my opinion, fails to define the problem adequately. I suggest it may be better to ask questions like: What percentage of UBC main campus faculty and staff currently live on campus or in the UEL? Within 5 kilometers? 10? 20? And, of these, what percentage of the household incomes is spent on housing? And lastly, if they do pay above the ‘affordable’ guideline, but benefit from the short commute, is it a problem?

    For your consideration.

    • Nando de Freitas says:

      Suppose you learn that three teenagers have died from taking, say E, in your neighborhood this week. Do you stop reporting this anecdotal statistic until you collect enough data? Or are you prepared at this stage to recognize there is a problem even if you haven’t calculated p-values, quantiles, etc.?

      Statisticians must consider contextual information as well as utilities associated with observations when the sample size is relatively small. My previous message only had the purpose of reporting anecdotal evidence. However, when the two data points I discuss were/are CRCs and among the top publishing and most cited faculty at UBC, then this anecdotal evidence is important. There are huge costs associated with losing top faculty, even if it’s only a handful of them.

      Although I agree that collecting more data is important and a good idea, I do believe the folks who produced this report spend a great effort in collecting data and reporting relevant statistics.

  3. Ghoussoub says:

    Here is a message that was sent last week by one UBC department head to his colleagues.
    Dear Colleagues,
    Regrettably, XX has declined our offer of a Tier II CRC chair. He stated that “the housing situation in Vancouver….is just insane”. It is, unfortunately, hard to argue this point.
    All the best,
    I should add that this offer was declined even after that department had voted to create another position for a potential spousal appointment. Anecdotal evidence? Yes, but it is a situation many departments are experiencing more often than not.

  4. Hazita Harun says:

    After reading the “UBC Housing Action Plan”, I am shocked on the DISCRIMINATION towards UBC Staff!!!

    Quote from “The Plan”:
    “After careful consideration of these factors, it was determined that new ownership program options would be recommended for tenure and tenure-track faculty only.”

    …Hazita Harun
    UBC Staff

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