AMS housing service still growing 10 months after launch

Ten months after its launch, the AMS housing service is helping students, but is still working to raise awareness about the resources it offers.

The AMS launched its housing service last September to help students find off-campus housing following a survey which found it was a key area where students needed support. 

AMS Students Services Manager Mitchell Prost said that the service provides support to students in a variety of ways such as finding roommates and helping them understand the Vancouver rental market.

One way the housing service helps students find resources is through one-on-one sessions. 

“Students are able to go on to our website, book a one-on-one housing session with one of our volunteers who are trained in the resources that exist and are able to effectively navigate what is offered in Vancouver,” Prost said.

The housing service has a list of resources on their webpage, which includes various websites and Facebook groups to find rental housing.

The housing service also runs a Discord server on which students can find roommates, find or advertise places to sublet, ask questions regarding housing and access all of AMS Housing’s resources. At time of publishing, the server has 461 members.

Rundong Wang, an incoming arts student, said that the service was very useful, and he found a roomate using the Discord. Wang had to look for off-campus housing because he had received his letter of acceptance to UBC after the deadline to apply for on-campus housing. 

“I found one [roommate] … and we started looking for something on Craigslist … [the server] is very useful,” Wang said.

However, he said acceptance into the Discord server took a long time.

Prost said that the housing service team is currently manually verifying that users are UBC students before letting them join, but that they are hoping to automate some of the process in future to speed it up.

Brian Choi, a second-year Sauder student who has also used the Discord server, said that while he was happy that AMS was taking an initiative to help students, he thought the service was more useful for finding roommates than housing.

“If the AMS could maybe work with some of the local real estate companies, that would actually help us find a place to live rather than just a roommate. I believe that would be really helpful for the entire student body,” he said.

Choi also said that he wasn’t aware of what the housing service offered before joining their Discord server. 

Prost said the team is working to improve student’s knowledge of the service. “I think [the service] is so new, awareness is something we're still working through. We definitely have seen an increase in folks using the service since we first launched which is very encouraging.”

Prost also said the service’s Education and Outreach (EO) branch is expanding to increase awareness of the service and of housing resources in general. 

During AMS housing week in July, the EO team collaborated with organizations like The Tenant Resource and Advisory and Centre (TRAC) and Vancouver Tenants Union (VTU) and ran workshops for students about tenants rights, working with landlords and how to find housing in general.

“We found those events were really well attended. So we were very encouraged by that. Very clearly there is a need and we're excited to continue providing the service and helping support students with off-campus housing,” Prost said.