The B.C. Government is providing the University of British Columbia 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 per cent 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.”
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 per cent 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 per cent) from the provincial government. UBC Okanagan will finance the balance from internal sources and will pay back the government loan through rental income.
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.