Last month, experts and leaders from various non-profit organizations and local governments from the non-market housing sector, and UBC leadership gathered at UBC to discuss one of the Lower Mainland’s most pressing challenges — housing affordability.
I had the privilege of co-hosting the roundtable on housing, along with Dr. Penny Gurstein, the founding director of the Housing Research Collaborative, a community of housing researchers, providers and policymakers focused on developing non-market housing innovations.
The roundtable was an opportunity to learn from those working on the front-line of the housing crisis and discuss how UBC could support non-market housing innovation in the region. It also allowed UBC leaders to gain a better understanding of the best way to align our efforts in the short and long-term.
This was the third President’s Roundtable. We have also hosted conversations on reducing stigma related to the opioid overdose epidemic and on climate change. More on those, and the roundtable series in general, in a moment.
While it’s too early to share specific outcomes from this roundtable—we have a lot of legwork to do to follow-up on specific ideas—three items from the conversation jumped out that I would like to share with you:
- B.C. leads the country in non-market housing innovation. A number of participants noted that the local non-profit housing sector runs deep and strong, with a long history stretching back to well before the current crisis. B.C. has always been a national leader in this area and the current housing crisis is forcing it to innovate even more.
- “Unusual suspects” are joining the sector. Participants noted that faith-based organizations, charities, non-profits and other mission-driven groups are putting their land into play not just to further their own missions but to help ease the crisis. And some investors are lowering expectations of a financial return for a higher social return, or what’s called “impact investing.”
- Metro Vancouver needs to scale up. As one participant said, while comparable cities devote 30 per cent of the housing market to non-market housing, Vancouver is hovering around five per cent. The entire sector needs to scale up to meet the demand.
This is just a small taste of a much broader conversation that in itself barely scratched the surface. If you’re curious to learn more, keep an eye on the President’s Roundtable webpage for the full report.
What became clear to me is that UBC can play a role in helping address this crisis. We discussed how the university can help build the capacity of the sector, supply research and case studies to help make the case for the sector, and develop a cohesive career path for students into sector, among other collaboration and research opportunities.
Understanding how UBC can play a role in pressing social issues is precisely what the roundtables are designed to do.
What are the President’s Roundtables?
I started convening roundtables a year ago; they are a way to keep the university aligned with the pressing needs of the communities we belong to—one of the key commitments in UBC’s strategic plan, UBC’s Next Century.
As the plan says:
“We must continue to play a strong role in engagement, learning about the world around us and empowering people to be good stewards and change makers. This requires an outward orientation in our education, research and community development. It requires a willingness to collaborate and connect, with the passion for engagement that is a part of the fabric of UBC…. And it requires the capacity to listen and adapt to the evolving needs and dynamics of the world beyond the university.”
In other words, in this fast-moving world, we need to find ways for the wider community to inform our work. Smart, dedicated students, scholars, and faculty across the university are already doing this. This event is a chance to do the same at an institutional level.
The first roundtable addressed stigma related to substance use and addiction to help relieve the ongoing overdose crisis in our region. Among other outcomes, it prompted our Faculty of Medicine to work with health programs at UBC to begin to develop consistent pedagogies relating to mental health and addiction.
The second roundtable explored barriers to, and opportunities for, partnerships on climate action in the region. It prompted UBC to participate in the Global Climate Action Summit, forge stronger partnerships with regional partners, and helped to share climate research and support the student-led Climate Hub to increase climate literacy.
These roundtables are but one way UBC is responding to pressing social and economic challenges we face locally, and around the world. Every day I have the privilege of meeting faculty, students, and staff who are working on some of today’s most complex issues. Their dedication, ingenuity, and connection to community inspires me and I don’t think we acknowledge these colleagues enough. I hope that the roundtables add to this broader effort.
Thank you to those who participated in the roundtable.
If you would like to learn more about this or past roundtables, please visit the links below:
- Read more about how UBC is addressing housing issues on campus.
- Read more about the President’s Roundtable series.
Professor Santa J. Ono
President and Vice-Chancellor