More student housing is in the works for University of the Fraser Valley. Currently, UFV only has 200 beds for students. It hopes to triple that figure.                                UFV photo

More student housing is in the works for University of the Fraser Valley. Currently, UFV only has 200 beds for students. It hopes to triple that figure. UFV photo

UFV planning for 400 beds of new student housing in Abbotsford

$55 million project would triple amount of student housing on Abbotsford campus

The University of the Fraser Valley hopes to triple the amount of student housing available on its Abbotsford campus.

The university has plans to build 400 new beds at a cost of $55 million, according to its latest capital plan, which was approved this fall.

The project would be chiefly financed through a low-interest loan from the provincial government. About $15 million would come from UFV’s own reserves. Last year, the university posted a $22 million surplus.

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The university’s capital plan suggests construction could begin as soon as next year, with completion and occupancy by students foreseen in 2022.

UFV currently has only 200 units of student housing in its Baker House residence, which was built in 2006.

In its capital plan, the university notes that Abbotsford has had a rental market with availability rates below one per cent.

“The primary rental market is expected to remain tight,” the plan states. “Migration and the growth of the young adult population will keep the demand high for rental accommodation in the Abbotsford area.”

The university wants to access a $450 million fund for university student housing projects announced in the 2018 provincial budget.

The plan says revenue from rents will cover both borrowing and operating costs.

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There’s already plenty of construction taking place at UFV. The university is renovating buildings A-East and D at an expected cost of around $35 million. The exteriors of the two buildings had begun to fail, with engineers finding cracking of the exterior stucco finish and “problems arising from window-related failure resulting in serious deterioration of the wall assemblies.”

That, the capital plan says, posed a “risk of cladding collapse,” along with “health and safety concerns related to moisture ingress.”

Building A-East is now being renovated. When that work is completed next year, attention will turn to the larger Building D, according to the university’s website.

To allow those projects to proceed, the university bought the former home of Finnegan’s Pub to use for classroom space while construction takes place on the two buildings. That site, now named Building K, began welcoming students this fall.

The university says the project will extend the lives of each building by 30 years.

Meanwhile, the “Digital Hub” building envisioned in previous UFV capital plans appears to have been shelved, in favour of a long-term plan to renovate the old Finnegan’s structure.

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Once that building is done hosting relocated classes during renovations, the university hopes to create a “multimedia performance lab” that could, in part, be used by UFV’s theatre program. That program “has struggled to deliver its curriculum,” since the sale of its previous performance space at UFV’s Chilliwack campus, according to the capital plan.

The building would also host a “Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship” aimed at providing workshops for existing and would-be businesspeople.

The two projects would cost an estimated $10 million, three-quarters of which UFV would like covered by the province.

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