Premier announces funding for new UVic student housing project

Cassels and Horgan, with a rendering of the new buildings. Photo: Beth Doman

Premier John Horgan’s sunny announcement that the provincial government will back UVic’s ambitious new $201-million campus housing project—providing an additional 620 beds for students living off campus—met with roaring applause at a news conference Nov. 15. 

Horgan, Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark, UVic President Jamie Cassels, Oak Bay MLA Andrew Weaver and student Adri Bell extolled the virtues of much-needed student housing, helping address an acute regional need for increased rental housing.

"Students have enough stress in their lives without having to worry about finding a place to live they can afford. We're moving forward on our commitment to students at UVic and throughout the province to deliver comfortable and affordable housing in the heart of where they study," Horgan told a crowd of about 200, gathered outside Cadboro Commons.  "By increasing housing stock specifically for students, we're also taking the pressure off local rental markets, giving more options to other renters."

President Jamie Cassels noted 75 per cent of students arrive from beyond Greater Victoria, with UVic annually getting 1,000 or more housing applications than available beds. Expanding campus student housing is a long-time strategic priority of UVic’s campus planning process. Living on campus assists students with their transition to university, provides academic and social programming and support and nurtures a strong sense of belonging in the UVic community, Cassels said.

“Today’s announcement is really an important component to achieve a high-quality educational experience,” Cassels told the gathering. “Residences are absolutely critical to the educational experience and to student success.

Once the project meets with District of Saanich municipal approvals, staged construction over four years would begin in 2020 with the first building opening in 2022. Here’s what the housing project includes:

  • 782 beds, including 620 new beds and 162 replacement beds.
  • A 600-seat dining hall, kitchen, small grocery and new coffee shop to replace Cadboro Commons and provide more food offerings with healthy options.
  • A wide range of meeting rooms, informal gathering places and a designated Indigenous student lounge.
  • Rejuvenated outdoor areas and promenades.

“Students will find a welcoming place, a place to call home and a platform for their academic success and personal success,” Cassels said.

The living and dining environment will support positive student engagement and success. Additionally, UVic is exploring opportunities to use the project to acknowledge and educate students on local Indigenous histories, cultures, and traditions.

Student and senior community leader Adri Bell said she first moved into student housing in 2015 and experienced the benefit for students who face challenges in the transition to university while living away from home. Living on campus provides a sense of community and belonging, Bell said.

“Our community has been a tight-knit family and I know I was part of something special," said Bell.

“Students have been calling on government to take action to make their lives more affordable. They should be able to pursue their education without worrying about finding an affordable place to live,” said Mark. “New housing at UVic is part of our plan to build thousands of student homes on campuses throughout BC.”

A new horizon in sustainability 

Design and construction will meet both Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and Passive House standards, a rigorous world standard that is a first for UVic. The university anticipates that, upon completion, this will be one of the largest Passive House certified projects in Canada, expected to reduce conventional building energy demand by up to 75 per cent.

“I'm thrilled to see this student housing project move forward at the University of Victoria,” said Weaver, a renowned climate researcher who made his scientific career at UVic. “Not only will this new project provide critically needed on-campus housing, but the new buildings will also be constructed to the Passive House standard. Both UVic and the Province are demonstrating leadership in innovative low-carbon housing solutions, and I look forward to similar projects rolling out throughout British Columbia in the months ahead."

The total projected cost is approximately $201 million. The BC government is providing financing for $123 million that UVic will pay back as a loan, from housing fees. The University of Victoria Foundation is providing financing of up to $45 million, and UVic will supply the balance. Provincial funding includes $98 million from the BC Student Housing Loan Program for student housing and $25 million from the ministry capital budget towards half the cost of the dining hall.

Located south of the Student Union Building and west of Tower Residence, the location of the new student housing is close to the campus core. This site supports goals set out in the campus plan, including increased density, compact development and vibrancy along Ring Road. Cadboro Commons Building, Margaret Newton Hall and Emily Carr Residences will be deconstructed to accommodate the new student housing.

Feedback invited on student housing and dining designs

Proposed designs for UVic's newest buildings will be on display at a campus open house on Nov. 21. Following a year of consultations, the designs for the two student housing and dining buildings will be open for comment before the project moves to the municipal approval stage.


In this story

Keywords: administrative, residence, sustainability, funding, campus plan

People: John Horgan, Andrew Weaver, Melanie Mark, Adri Bell, Jamie Cassels

Publication: The Ring

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