UNA Response to the Updated Draft Land Use Plan

In February, the UNA called on UBC to prepare a Land Use Plan that includes specific environmental targets tied to a Neighbourhood Climate Action Plan, a goal of 50% rental housing in campus neighbourhoods, and a commitment to 5 hectares of green space per 1,000 inhabitants. These goals reflect resident support for sustainable, affordable, and livable neighbourhood development, as well as the University’s own commitments on climate, housing availability and affordability, and the quality of its urban form.  The draft Land Use Plan presented to the Board of Governors falls well short of these goals and aspirations. The Land Use Plan should be revised before the Board votes on its approval.

  • Climate Action

    The draft Land Use Plan has weak language on climate action, offering only to “work towards the targets and policies” of the University’s 2020 Climate Action Plan. UBC has not actually completed an updated Climate Action Plan for its neighbourhoods; it has not done GHG measurements nor set carbon targets to guide present or future land use planning.

    The UNA’s position:

    Before approving a new Land Use Plan, UBC should complete a comprehensive Climate Action Plan that includes the University neighbourhoods.

    The Neighbourhood Climate Action Plan should:

    • Set a Baseline: What is the carbon intensity of existing buildings, energy systems, transportation, and waste in UBC neighbourhoods?
    • Set Targets: What are UBC’s greenhouse gas and embodied carbon goals for the neighbourhoods by 2050?
    • Set Plans for Action: What short-, medium-, and long-term actions are needed to ensure that UBC achieves its GHG reduction targets?

    The new LUP should include a strong commitment to the Climate Action Plan’s GHG and carbon targets, setting parameters for building types, green infrastructure, and density that will put the University on track to achieve those targets.

  • Housing Availability and Affordability

    In spite of resident, student, faculty, staff, and provincial calls for bold steps to address shortages of rental housing, the draft Land Use Plan commits to a target of only 30% of UBC neighbourhood housing being rental. This is no more than the amount of rental achieved by the Housing Action Plan update of 2018.

    The UNA’s position:

    The housing crisis at UBC and across the Lower Mainland calls for much bolder commitments to housing availability and affordability.

    UBC should:

    • increase the proportion of neighbourhood rental housing to a total of 50%, as well as increase affordable purchase options for UBC affiliates;
    • finance student residences and rental housing with loans and existing funds in the TREK endowment, rather than through leasehold sales of a large proportion of its remaining land endowment;
    • invest in housing that serves the long-term interests of the University and its people, drawing revenue primarily from rents, rather than leasehold sales, to add to its endowment.
  • Ecology and Green Space

    The draft Land Use Plan promises 1.1 hectares of open/green space per 1000 residents, which is at the lower end of the World Health Organization’s recommended range of .9 to 5 ha. But the LUP reduces this to .5 ha in the case of “appropriate resident access to UBC-owned open space and facilities.” This is very low, and would seriously compromise livability and the University’s commitment to ecological and climate goals for the neighbourhoods. While residents do benefit from some open spaces adjacent to the Hawthorn neighbourhood, most UNA residents live several hundred meters from any regularly accessible open spaces on the academic campus. These spaces do not compensate for the abundant parks, trees, and informal play spaces that are foundational for healthy and sustainable communities.

    The UNA’s position:

    In order for the University to meet its climate targets, its open-space obligations to residents, and its commitments to sustainability and ecological responsibility, the LUP should increase levels of per capita green space in campus neighbourhoods.

    Before completing a Land Use Plan, UBC should

    • commission and publicize Environmental Impact Studies for a range of development scenarios;
    • set development limits compatible with the preservation of the ecologically rich and fragile natural systems of our peninsula;
    • and determine a balance of population and green space to achieve at least 5 hectares of green space per 1,000 inhabitants.
  • Affordable, Sustainable, Livable Density

    The draft Land Use Plan advances a plan to sharply increase housing density on UBC’s remaining land endowment by building at least twenty new towers, many over thirty stories tall. To date, UBC has been relatively successful at building dense neighbourhoods of mostly mid-rise housing. The draft LUP diverges sharply from the current model, proposing to nearly double those densities in new developments at Stadium Road, Acadia Park, and on the edge of the Wesbrook neighbourhood.

    The UNA’s position:

    UBC should retain its current scale of neighbourhood development, building compact, green, human-scaled communities. These wood-based neighbourhoods should comprise a mix of low- and mid-rise apartment buildings, stacked townhomes, and a small number of mass-timber high-rises no higher than twenty stories. They should be beacons of green urbanism in an academic setting, rather than islands of concrete towers at the far western fringe of Vancouver.

    UBC’s campus and neighbourhoods should be models of low carbon, sustainable, socially responsible, community-oriented urban planning. The Board of Governors should seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to establish UBC as a global leader in campus urbanism. We urge the Board to press for revisions to the Land Use Plan that will reflect these aspirations, as well as the values and public mission of the University.

Read UNA’s response to a prior version of the draft land use plan, dated March 1, 2023.

How can you get involved?

Let the UBC Board of Governors know what you think of UBC’s land-use planning proposals.

Let your MLA, David Eby, know what you think of UBC’s land-use planning proposals.

Let UBC know what you think of their land-use planning proposals.

Share your ideas on neighbourhood development with the UNA, to assist our advocacy on your behalf by filling out the form below.


Questions for UBC

The UNA Land Use Advisory Committee (LUAC) has compiled a list of questions to ask UBC regarding Campus Vision 2050.  You can expand each topic for the list of questions from the LUAC and UBC’s responses.

  • Revenue

    What percentage of the Endowment fund has come from revenue from land development to date?
    UBC’s Endowment provides stable and enduring financial support for the university’s research programs and students, and contributes to the university’s mandate to create a learning environment that fosters positive global citizenship. In 2022/23, the Endowment is approximately $3 billion. This includes external donations that are typically restricted to specific purposes (approximately 2/3) and land development revenue used to advance critical university priorities (approximately 1/3). More information is available in UBC’s annual budget.

    What percentage of UBC’s operating budget and capital budget comes from the Endowment?
    UBC’s 2022/23 operating budget is approximately $2.5 billion. In 2022/23, the funds available from income on land development are $63.3 million, or approximately 2% of UBC’s operating budget. This income is generated from the return on land development revenue invested in student housing financing, faculty affordability financing, and through the UBC Endowment. More information is available in UBC’s annual budget.

    What are your expectations for contribution to the Endowment from development revenue? Is there a scenario where development revenues do not contribute to the Endowment, but instead prioritize other needs?
    As a public institution, UBC funds critical university priorities through land development revenue: supporting academic excellence through the Endowment; providing housing for students, faculty and staff; and building campus amenities and infrastructure like the Aquatic Centre and Wesbrook Community Centre. Campus Vision 2050 will explore how to advance these critical needs and also realize UBC’s commitment to explore a financial contribution to the regional share of the cost of extending SkyTrain to campus. The UBC Board of Governors makes decisions about how to allocate land development revenue.

    Does UBC still plan to fund a new stadium out of development revenues?  If so, how much will it cost?
    The Stadium Neighbourhood Plan will be finalized through Campus Vision 2050. If the Plan is approved with a new Thunderbird Stadium, it will likely be funded from land development revenues as a cost of developing the area, as is the case with other development on campus, along with potential donor or government funding. Stadium costs will be determined as part of a future planning and design process.

    What financial contribution would be required by UBC for the SkyTrain extension? Also, what are the estimated costs of the terminus at UBC?
    UBC is exploring ways to make a meaningful financial contribution to the regional share of the Millennium Line UBC Extension without diverting funding from its academic mission. The University is working with TransLink to advance project planning and design, which will provide information on costs. It is too early to say what financial contribution UBC may provide, but it may take many forms: providing land for stations; charges collected from developers; and/or a financial contribution from new revenues enabled by rapid transit such as additional housing and development that would not be possible without enhanced transportation.

  • Affordability

    The Terms of Reference refer to “affordable housing.”  How is affordability defined?
    As part of Campus Vision 2050, UBC is also updating its Housing Action Plan, the long-term strategy for housing affordability and choice on campus. The Housing Action Plan currently defines affordability as: for faculty and staff, housing they can afford to rent, lease, or purchase without having to spend more than 30% of pre-tax household income on housing costs (including rent or mortgage, strata fees and property taxes); and for students, housing that is self-supporting on a cost-recovery basis, and is at or below market rental rates. The Housing Action Plan update that will review this definition.

    How does affordable housing for the UBC community rank in priority compared to revenue generation?
    As a public institution, UBC funds critical university priorities, such as affordable housing, through land development revenue. For example, since 2011, UBC has used land development proceeds to internally finance more than 3,000 student housing beds that could not have been built otherwise. Campus Vision 2050 will explore how to advance affordable housing along with other critical university needs, including: supporting academic excellence through the Endowment; enhancing campus amenities and infrastructure; and realizing UBC’s commitment to explore a financial contribution to SkyTrain to campus.

    Does UBC plan to offer affordable housing options for every faculty, staff and student who wants it?  (i.e. no wait list)
    UBC’s Housing Action Plan is a long-term strategy to increase faculty, staff and student housing affordability and choice on campus. UBC relies on land development revenue and available land to deliver community housing. As part of Campus Vision 2050, UBC is also updating its Housing Action Plan. That process will explore capacity for UBC community housing on campus.

    What is the past and anticipated future demand for faculty/staff housing, including larger units sized and priced for families?
    As part of Campus Vision 2050, UBC is also updating its Housing Action Plan, the University’s long-term strategy for housing affordability and choice on campus. The Housing Action Plan update will assess future demand for faculty, staff and student housing on campus, including approaches to location, amount, type, tenure and cost of housing.

    Recognizing the need to address housing affordability at UBC, the last iteration of the Stadium Neighbourhood Plan proposed to allocate 67% to UBC community housing. Does UBC plan for this to be a minimum threshold for future developments?

    As part of Campus Vision 2050, UBC is also updating its Housing Action Plan, the University’s long-term strategy for housing affordability and choice on campus. The Housing Action Plan update will take a campus-wide approach to establishing targets for UBC community housing, including approaches to location, amount, type, tenure and cost of housing.

    2021 census data indicate that 15% of housing units at UBC are “not occupied by usual residents.”  The comparable figure for the city of Vancouver is 7%.  How can/should UBC planners address the relatively high rate of unoccupied units?
    Census data is valuable and also poses challenges for UBC’s campus. For example, the category “not occupied by usual residents” includes 1) dwellings unoccupied on census day (May 11, 2021) and 2) dwellings occupied with someone who has a primary residence elsewhere in Canada or abroad. The first group includes vacant rental units, of which UBC had many during the height of the COVID pandemic, and newly built campus buildings not yet occupied. The second group includes students who have their usual residence with their parents off campus. As a result, UBC is likely to have a higher percentage of units “not occupied by usual residents” than other jurisdictions. Through the Housing Action Plan update, UBC is exploring other potential data sources to assess campus occupancy, such as provincial Speculation and Vacancy Tax data for UBC neighbourhoods.

    According to data from Canadian Housing Statistics Program and SFU’s Andy Yan in 2019, 49% of condominium units at UBC are non-owner-occupied – i.e. investment properties – the highest fraction in Canada.  How will UBC address this issue in future land development?

    Like Census data, Canadian Housing Statistics Program data is valuable and poses challenges for UBC’s campus. Andy Yan’s analysis relied on 2018 data and showed that 49% of condominium units in Metro Vancouver’s Electoral Area A are non-owner-occupied. Non-owner-occupied condominium units could include many situations on UBC’s campus: a student’s family who has purchased a home while studying at UBC, newly built units not yet occupied, and units owned and rented to UBC’s community. UBC monitors rental market and other data sources to assess campus housing occupancy. Census housing data released later in 2022 will provide additional information.

  • Sustainability

    UBC declared a climate emergency and the Board passed a Climate Action Plan, but in the FAQs for the CAP, you note that it does not apply to residential neighbourhoods. The FAQ notes that the relevant plans for neighbourhoods are the CEEP (from 2013, needing an update), REAP (updated in 2020), and “UBC has also initiated a Neighbourhood Low Carbon Energy Strategy (NLCES) to identify pathways to accelerate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions and increase resiliency in future neighbourhood developments.”  Could you tell us more about the NLCES?  Where in that process are you/we?  Is there a public consultation component?  How, if at all, can NLCES tie into Campus Vision 2050 discussions?
    UBC is committed to significantly reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. This includes the recently approved Climate Action Plan 2030 for the academic campus, which commits to an 85% reduction in operational emissions. UBC is also in the early planning phase for a Neighbourhood Climate Action Plan that will update the existing 2013 Community Energy and Emission Plan. It will include actions to address a broad range of neighbourhood activities, including energy, new and existing buildings, transportation, and waste.

    As an input for Neighbourhood Climate Action Plan work, UBC is developing a Neighbourhood Low Carbon Energy Strategy (NLCES). The NLCES is focused on future developments and neighbourhoods. It will address how UBC can achieve resilient and low carbon developments by defining 1) a low carbon roadmap with targets and pathways for new developments; and 2) the optimal low carbon energy source, considering cost-competitiveness and environmental objectives.

    The NLCES is shaped by UBC’s existing land use rules and legal agreements, including for neighbourhood district energy. It also includes detailed scenario analysis comparing different technical solutions including approaches to BC Energy Step Code adoption. As a largely technical exercise it does not include any public engagement. The process started in mid-2021 and is expected to conclude in fall 2022.

    NLCES results will inform the upcoming Neighbourhood Climate Action Plan process, which will include engagement with a wide range of stakeholders including the UNA and broader public. The NLCES also links in with Campus Vision 2050 through the Climate Action theme.

    Has UBC done any planning or modelling or is thinking of incorporating consideration of the potential impacts climate change will have on buildings and infrastructure on campus and what impact/cost this will have on the university’s bottom line in the Campus Vision process?

    UBC has developed Climate Ready Building Requirements based on regional climate modelling scenarios to address the increasing severity and duration of climate events. This includes measures to address thermal comfort during heat waves, rainwater management facilities and new landscaping design guidelines that identify plantings that withstands greater extremes associated with intense rain and drought events.

    UBC’s Climate Action Plan 2030 also identifies the need to develop a broader climate adaptation, resiliency and biodiversity strategy which will be initiated this year and will be integrated closely with the development of Campus Vision 2050.

    How will UBC promote walking, bicycling, and other forms of sustainable transit (apart from electric cars) on campus in the short and long-term?  What considerations will be given to those with mobility challenges?
    UBC continues to implement our 2014 Transportation Plan for the Vancouver campus, which articulates a range of targets, policies and actions aimed at improving the experience of people of all abilities travelling to, from and around campus while encouraging the use of sustainable modes (primarily walking, cycling and transit). Recent and upcoming initiatives include: completion of the new UBC Bus Exchange in 2019; continuation of the campus-wide bike share program operated by HOPR since 2019; new secure bike parking and end-of-trip facilities; ongoing public realm improvements across campus; a growing network of dedicated cycling facilities and wayfinding; other sustainable transportation programs and partnerships (e.g. vanpool program, strategic partnerships with carshare and ride-hailing providers, new ridematching and trip-planning tools, etc.). UBC will continue to integrate universal design principles at all stages of planning and development processes, ensure barrier-free accessible parking, and deliver programs (like the Accessibility Shuttle) to ensure people can participate equally in campus life regardless of their physical, sensory or cognitive abilities.

    UBC’s Climate Action Plan 2030 added a new commuting-related GHG emission reduction target (45% below 2010 levels by 2030) and a suite of immediate and near-term actions. These include: strengthening remote learning and working policies and supports; enhancing our sustainable transportation program offerings; eliminating longer-term parking permits that incentivize driving; introducing a faculty/staff transit pass discount program; improving the cycling experience to and from campus; and working towards an integrated e-bike share program with the City of Vancouver. The anticipated Neighbourhood Climate Action Plan will identify related actions specific to neighbourhoods.

    The Millennium Line UBC Extension is critical to achieving our sustainable mode share, single-occupancy vehicle reduction, and commuting-related emission targets.

    Campus Vision 2050 will reinforce the need to strengthen connectivity within the campus and to the broader region, prioritizing active and sustainable modes and planning for the arrival of SkyTrain to campus. It is anticipated that an updated UBC Vancouver Transportation Plan will follow Campus Vision 2050.

    How is UBC planning to protect, provide and conserve the small green spaces and natural areas that are critical to the wellbeing and livability of campus and ensure they contribute to a connected ecological network across campus?

    Enhancing ecology and biodiversity are critical to campus sustainability, climate resilience, ecological health and human wellbeing. Campus Vision 2050 will explore future land use and development in ways that minimize impact on existing natural areas (e.g., through more landefficient, compact development oriented around a network of green and open spaces), applying green infrastructure approaches to mimic natural systems and address downstream impacts (e.g., green streets, integrated rainwater management) and enhance ecological connectivity both within the campus as well as to the surrounding peninsula.

  • Process

    How will conflicting values/interests be handled? What is the process to do so?

    The Campus Vision engagement is designed to be transparent, inclusive, equitable, and flexible to understand and respond to the multiple interests in UBC’s academic and neighbourhood lands that need to be considered. These interests include Musqueam, campus Indigenous communities, students, faculty, residents, staff, alumni and visitors.

    A set of guiding Principles and Strategies will be developed that reflect these interests and values. Along with quantitative and qualitative criteria they will then guide the development and testing of options for the Visioning process and to assess trade-offs and choices for how the university uses its lands to best respond to the complexity of interests, needs and values.

    Examples of criteria include:

    • Urban Structure and Ecology (e.g., land use distribution and integration, transportation and mobility network capacity, amenities and services distribution, ecological connectivity, climate resiliency)
    • Character and Urban Design (e.g., Musqueam and campus indigenous community values, sense of place and campus fit, human-scale urban design, cultural diversity & community experience, green and open space diversity and connectivity)
    • Financial Support to Advance University Priorities (e.g., amount, type and tenure of affordable housing for the UBC community; support for academic excellence; community amenities & infrastructure; and bringing SkyTrain to UBC)

    There will be interests and values that align, and there may be some that are in conflict. While full consensus may not be achievable on outcomes, the intent is to make the trade-offs and choices clear to the community through transparent information and participatory engagement in the process, and to the UBC Board of Governors when making decisions.

    How are the inputs from all sources documented and analyzed? Is there a central place to document the inputs and how are the inputs analyzed quantitatively or qualitatively?

    Campus Vision 2050 involves input from the community through:

    • Broad community engagement, including open houses, community meetings and online engagement through tools such as surveys.
    • Targeted engagement (e.g., with Musqueam, UNA Board, Community Advisory Committee and others).

    Inputs received through these channels will be documented and shared as follows:

    • Engagement summary reports, including analysis and summaries of all engagement feedback as well as verbatim comments, will be completed after each engagement period and shared with the Board of Governors and the community via the Campus Vision 2050 website.
    • Meeting minutes of the Community Advisory Committee will be posted on the Campus Vision 2050 website.
    • Submissions to Board of Governors meetings (including information, recommendations, etc. along with engagement feedback and full engagement summary report) will be posted publicly on the UBC Board of Governors website (approx. one week in advance of Board meetings), and linked to from the Campus Vision 2050 website.

    Campus Vision 2050 also involves technical analysis and studies (i.e., land use capacity, growth assumptions, existing conditions and analysis of proposed options against the principles, strategies and criteria). Results of technical studies and analysis will inform the development and testing of options and be available