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Province invests in mass timber project for new student housing

Students attending the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) in the coming years will have access to hundreds of new, affordable and environmentally friendly on-campus housing beds.

“Students throughout the province have told our government the lack of affordable housing has stood in the way of their education and aspirations, and we committed to fixing this problem,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. “Building these new homes is answering a call to action from students and communities to support innovation and create more affordable, cleaner and greener housing.”

On Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, Mark announced the new student housing project at BCIT, valued at nearly $115 million. The Province is investing $108.8 million towards BCIT’s new student housing project as part of government’s 30-point plan on housing. BCIT is contributing $6 million towards this project. The plan includes a BC Student Housing Loan Program for public post-secondary institutions that provides access to funds to help finance student housing projects over six years. This project will be the first investment in new student housing beds at BCIT in 38 years.

The investment will support the construction of a 464-bed, 12-storey student housing project at BCIT’s Burnaby campus. The project will be designed to reflect Indigenous culture in the region, and to support Indigenous learners by providing community spaces on the ground floor. The new building will be constructed using mass timber, a sustainable product that is cost effective, quicker to build and has a lower carbon footprint compared to traditional concrete construction.

“Mass timber is key to diversifying and creating a more resilient forest sector as we work to transition to high-value over high-volume production,” said Ravi Kahlon, Parliamentary Secretary for Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “It’s great to see the ripple effects from the expanded use of sustainably harvested, low-carbon wood products in B.C. buildings. It helps combat climate change and brings people back to work in forestry-related jobs, while this project creates housing for hundreds of future BCIT students.” 

B.C. is a leader in the use of mass timber as an innovative way to reduce the carbon footprint of the building sector, while supporting well-paying jobs for people in communities throughout the province. This project will also support regional economic development, creating about 700 direct and indirect jobs in local communities through the manufacturing process.

The Province’s investment means opportunities for local workers in the forestry sector, strong partnerships with First Nations and greater economic opportunity, while also making a significant contribution to advancing CleanBC. The energy-efficient design supports the Province’s commitment to CleanBC and will meet Step 4 of the BC Energy Step Code.

Funding student housing is part of the government’s 10-year housing plan, Homes for BC. This includes a $1.9-billion investment through the Building BC: Community Housing Fund to create more than 14,000 new affordable rental homes for low- to moderate-income British Columbians.

Since February 2018, the Province has funded an additional 2,439 student beds at post-secondary schools, compared to the 130 beds funded during the previous 16 years.

CleanBC is a pathway to a more prosperous, balanced and sustainable future. CleanBC was developed in collaboration with the BC Green Party caucus and Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, and supports the commitment in the Confidence and Supply Agreement to implement climate action to meet B.C.’s emission targets.


Janet Routledge, MLA Burnaby North –

“For many people, the lack of on-campus student housing is a major barrier to opportunity. New beds at BCIT will take some of the pressure off students, while freeing up affordable rentals for people in their community. Today’s announcement is not just about student housing but also about reducing our carbon footprint. Mass timber is a sustainable and value-added product that can be made in B.C. It will create hundreds of well-paying jobs helping all British Columbians.”

Mike Hurley, mayor, Burnaby –

“By increasing affordable housing for students, we’re also taking the pressure off local rental markets, giving more options to other renters. Students have enough stress in their lives without having to worry about finding a place to live they can afford.”

Kathy Kinloch, president, BCIT –

“This investment will allow BCIT students to access sustainable on-campus housing to support their journey to a new or expanded career through an industry-relevant applied education. This new mass timber housing project is a key component of BCIT’s commitment to support the future social and economic prosperity of the province in a way that respects our spectacular natural environment.”

Quick Facts:

  • The Province is investing $450 million in the construction of approximately 5,000 student beds over six years.
  • An additional 3,000 student beds will be built through non-government partnerships and institutional self-financing, for a total of about 8,000 new beds by 2028.
  • As of September 2020, the B.C. government is almost halfway to its target of funding approximately 5,000 student homes on campuses throughout the province.
  • In mass timber buildings, the primary load-bearing structure is made of solid or engineered wood. These buildings can be one-fifth the weight of comparable concrete buildings, while still meeting performance standards for safety, structural resilience and fire protection.

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