A local developer’s claim that they’re meeting a dire need for university housing may be a bit misleading, says a UBCO official.
The Mission Group plans to begin sales on its U-Eight condo project in early 2019, and they’ve been saying the project will add 90 homes to within walking distance of UBCO, where enrolment has tripled to 9,945 students since 2005. There are currently 1,676 student on-campus beds and Shannon Dunn, the UBCO director of business operations says the developer’s claim that there’s a shortfall of 6,400 beds is a bit misleading.
Dunn says the marketing doesn’t take into account that 25 to 30 per cent of UBCO’s students come from the Okanagan Valley.
She said under UBCO’s 20-year master plan, an additional 2,250 on-campus beds are projected over the next two decades as student enrolment continues to climb.
She said UBCO’s on-campus housing percentage is likely to top out in the mid-20s, which is high compared to most universities across Canada. At the parent UBC campus in Vancouver, that percentage is closer to 20 per cent.
“We don’t need all those new beds right now based on our current enrolment but we have tried to look forward and anticipate where we need to be at. Right now, we have a commitment to add another 440 beds to open within the next 18 months to two years,” Dunn said.
She said UBCO makes a commitment to all out-of-town first year students to provide campus housing, to help them make that transition to university life.
“It’s a natural trajectory at most universities that students tend to live in campus the first and possibly second years, and then start to look at other living options within the community,” she said.
She said UBCO’s housing inventory took a giant leap adding 1,400 beds within a six year period from 2005 to 2011, a reflection of explosive growth cycle of the university over the last decade.
“We were responding to student enrolment demand at that time, and we’ve seen another blip upwards of late which is why we’ve made that further 440-bed commitment,” she said.
She said the university’s enrolment growth has sparked private development interest as well, which helps off-set the university’s student housing demands, citing the Mission Group’s efforts along with the Veda Group 500-unit student rental/sale apartment development next to the campus.
“Interested developers will come and ask us about our enrolment and campus housing plans. There is no formal partnership in those situations but housing projects like that help meet a need, especially with the vacancy rate being so low in recent years in Kelowna,” Dunn noted.
She said outside of campus, the Quail Ridge area provides accommodations for about 1,000 UBCO students, possibly due to many residents spending the winters down south.
“The September to April student time-frame seems to work well for residents in that area. I’m not sure exactly how or why but it does seem to be a convenient neighbourhood for students to find housing,” she said.
When UBCO was initially established, Rutland and Glenmore were eyed as potential bedroom communities where UBCO students would naturally migrate to find housing.
Dunn said ultimately, what has taken on added significance to geographic location is transit access, since enrolment fees for all students includes a universal bus pass.
“Anywhere with an accessible bus line connection to campus can become a convenient off-campus housing option.”
U-Eight is the final Mission Group project eyed for the university district. The previous seven projects have all sold out.
The price range for U-Eight units ranges from low $200,000’s for studio suites to mid-$400,000’s for three-bedroom layouts. Interested buyers can register at www.liveateight.com for more information.