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UBC approves plans for affordable housing for faculty, staff

Housing is so expensive in Vancouver, even university professors can't afford a roof over their heads.

It's a problem the University of British Columbia is hoping to fix by becoming one of the few universities in the world to offer below-market rentals, non-profit housing, and ownership to faculty, staff, and students.

In the works for over a year now, The University Community on Campus – the UBC Housing Action Plan has been approved by the University's board of governors. Promising to keep up to 30 per cent of new housing on the University's endowment lands for faculty and staff, the plan pledges up to two-third of new those new units will be "restricted rentals," charging less than 25 per cent of the market rent for West Vancouver.

According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), the average rental rate for all of Vancouver was $1,013 per month. The CMHC doesn't offer rental rate averages by neighbourhoods.

The other third will be "restricted home ownership" for tenure and tenure track faculty, with an estimated retail cost of 33 per cent below the housing market. The Canadian Realtors Association puts the average housing cost in Vancouver at just over $725,000.

Another 100 units of non-profit housing will be open to full-time University staff that makes under $64,000 per year.

Students will benefit from an extra 2,125 beds by 2016, adding to the 9,000 already on campus. The plan calls for these units to run below market rental prices and for UBC to advocate on students' behalf for an increase to student loans' shelter allowances.

In a press release, UBC President Stephen Toope praised the University's foresight in managing its endowment lands as part of the reason UBC is able to provide so much housing for University faculty, staff and students.

"The sound management of the land endowed to UBC 100 years ago is allowing us to put in place housing options that will help UBC attract and retain the world’s best, and dramatically increase the sustainability of our campus," reads his statement.

The Tyee contacted the UBC Faculty Association for comment on the plan but did not hear back by deadline.

Katie Hyslop reports on youth and education issues for The Tyee. Follow her on Twitter @kehyslop.

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