UBC assigning first-year students temporary living spaces amid housing crisis

Seventy-one first-year students at UBC are temporarily living in floor lounges in some Totem Park and Place Vanier residence buildings as the university tries to fulfill its guaranteed housing commitment for incoming students.

UBC guarantees housing for first-year students entering from high school that apply for housing by May 1 and accept their admission offer by June 1. Students who do not meet these conditions are given first-year housing if space is available.

However, some applicants are still on the waitlist on the June 1 deadline, meaning they cannot meet UBC's criteria.

UBC Student Housing and Community Services (SHCS) currently has a total of 80 temporary living spaces in floor lounges. They have the same furnishings as a typical room, and include dividers for privacy. A maximum of two to three students live in each floor lounge, and pay the same rate as those in permanent shared rooms (around $5,669 for two terms).

According to Andrew Parr, the associate vice-president of SHCS, these temporary accommodations are not new.

“We pretty much every year have some students that live in temporary housing in the first year for some period of time,” Parr said in an interview.

“We know that the first year experience is enhanced by students living in housing so we wanted to give as many of those students that possibility. That's why we do the temporary housing.”

When asked about these circumstances, Parr recommended students apply for housing when they apply for UBC to ensure they get a spot in on-campus housing — although this involves a $50 non-refundable application fee.

In their residence offers, students assigned to floor lounges are told explicitly that the accommodations are temporary and that they will be moved to a permanent room as soon as possible, according to Parr.

Parr said students are moved into permanent rooms on a rolling basis as spaces open up, often as a result of another student moving out or cancelling their contract ahead of moving in. SHSC then sends out more temporary housing offers to those on the waitlist.

In an email sent to The Ubyssey, Matthew Ramsey, director of university affairs at UBC Media Relations, wrote there are still 23 students on the waitlist, with 6 offers pending. He added that around 50 per cent of students accept these offers.

Most students typically receive a permanent assignment by final exams in term one, according to Parr. Upper-year students on the UBC subreddit said they remember their house lounges being used for these temporary living spaces until October, two months ahead of finals.

So far this year, SHCS has moved 85 first-year students from temporary to permanent rooms.

Parr said the university has only occasionally heard complaints from students about these temporary room assignments, but added he believes students — and the university — see it as a better alternative to navigating the Vancouver housing market.

Students continue to struggle to find housing in Metro Vancouver amid an affordable housing crisis. On top of affordability, some incoming first-year students may not be able to sign a lease due to their age.

“We think that it benefits more students than it maybe harms,” he said.

Parr anticipates that UBC Housing will continue to rely on temporary housing in floor lounges to keep up with first-year demand for housing, but said UBC is building additional housing.

“We have a plan right now to build another 4,400 new beds in the next 10 years or so, an investment of $1.2 billion,” he said, specifically mentioning the recently-opened Brock Commons North building and soon-to-be-opened Brock Commons South building.

Brock Commons is adding 600 beds for upper-year students.