Choosing where to live while you are studying at UBC can be a daunting prospect. But there are plenty of resources to help you find the right place.
You can stroll to lectures and get home quickly – just two of the advantages of living on campus.
UBC Student Housing
The UBC Housing website contains information about on-campus housing opportunities that are available to graduate students. Please note: on-campus housing is in high demand. You will have to apply very early to be able to receive a placement in time for your program start date. We recommend you apply for on-campus housing at the same time as you apply for a graduate program, or as early as possible once you know you will be attending UBC!
Once you have applied, you can check your position on the waiting list through the online service centre at https://secure.housing.ubc.ca/
Tip: as a graduate student you have a better chance of getting into on-campus residence if you apply for year-round housing. If you apply for the winter session only, you will be competing with undergraduate students who have priority.
Winter Session housing
If you are single and very flexible in your preferred residence, you still have a chance of being offered a room in residence for the Winter Session where contracts are from September - April. Winter Session housing is suitable for single students or students coming with a partner and can provide a safe landing spot for students to get to know the city and house hunt during the first 8 months of their time at UBC. Space for graduate students is allocated in Walter Gage, Fairview Crescent, and Ponderosa Commons (Cedar House) in single rooms in both shared and self-contained units.
Year-Round Housing (singles, couples/families)
Year-Round Housing is a combination of single rooms in both shared and self-contained units. Contracts run from May - April and if you are offered a contract for year-round housing, you have the first right of refusal to renew for as long as you remain eligible.
Year-Round Housing options are available in the following residences: Brock Commons, Exchange, Fraser Hall, Iona House, Marine Drive, Ponderosa Commons (Arbutus, Maple, Spruce, Oak), Thunderbird, and Acadia Park (student family housing). This type of housing is in very high demand and if you haven't already applied for Year-Round Housing for September, chances of receiving an offer are low. If you have applied or intend to apply and do not receive an offer for September, you will remain on the waitlist for a later offer.
Housing for students with families is in highest demand and if you did not apply for a place in Acadia Park together with your graduate school application, it is very unlikely that you will receive an offer for your desired term start date. However, if you wish to eventually live on campus you should apply as soon as possible to get on the waitlist for a later term.
Graduate Student Colleges
Green College and St. John's College are UBC's Graduate Colleges, which are dedicated to graduate students, visiting scholars, and postdocs. Unlike other graduate student housing options, the Colleges have a membership and dining society, for example, membership is required and there is a mandatory meal plan. Single residents and students with partners are eligible to apply. There are lively communities in both St. John's College and Green College; residents share 10-12 meals per week prepared by the Chef.
Other on-Campus Housing Options
In addition to the graduate student housing available on campus, there are other campus housing options provided by third-party agencies.
Places like Westpoint in Chancellor Place, University MarketPlace in University Village, and Greenwood Commons in East Campus, are also places to consider if you’re hoping to live on campus but are not able to get graduate student residence housing.
The MBA House is primarily for graduate students in business programs, but sometimes has rooms available that they offer to non-business school graduate students.
Students with mobility disabilities
St. John's College has a limited number of wheelchair accessible rooms available. Green College is not suitable for students with mobility disabilities. UBC Housing has several residences (e.g. Gage Apartments, Fairview Crescent, Thunderbird, and Marine Drive Residences) that are suitable for students with mobility disabilities. Priority for assignment is given to students with substantiated disabilities that might prevent them from commuting to UBC from an off-campus residence. Please contact UBC Student Housing and Hospitality Services directly to get all details regarding availability and eligibility.
If you prefer to live in the city there are lots of fantastic neighborhoods to choose from. Look at the map of Vancouver to help you decide. Make sure you visit the area during the day and at night before deciding to live in a neighbourhood.
People new to Vancouver are sometimes confused about the boundaries of Vancouver. The metropolitan area includes several neighborhoods such as Kitsilano, Kerrisdale, the West End or Downtown. However, it does not include Richmond, Surrey, New Westminster or Burnaby which are all individual cities that belong to the Greater Vancouver region. The city of Vancouver is divided into the East and West sides. The area east of Ontario Street is considered the East Side, or East Vancouver. The area west of Ontario Street is considered the West Side.
The area west of Ontario Street is considered the West Side, but is not to be confused with the West End, which is a residential section of the downtown and also not to be confused with West Vancouver, which is a municipality north-west of Vancouver on the North Shore. Vancouver's West side neighbourhoods are the closest to UBC, which is located on the most western tip of Vancouver. Rents are a bit higher but the commute is shorter. West side’s main neighbourhoods:
- Kitsilano (Kits) – offers many apartments and is very close to the beach in what is considered a trendy neighbourhood.
- West Point Grey and Dunbar/Southlands – these offer many basement suites.
- Arbutus Ridge and Kerrisdale – offer single-family homes and apartment buildings.
The West End is a residential section of the downtown, close to Stanley Park and English Bay. Downtown Vancouver is the main city centre and thoroughfare to get to the Lion's Gate Bridge which links Vancouver to North Vancouver and West Vancouver. Some students choose to live in this trendy area of downtown (40 minutes to campus by bus).
As mentioned earlier, the area east of Ontario Street is considered the East side, or East Vancouver. There are several uniquely vibrant neighbourhoods in East Van. The East side of Vancouver is farther away from campus but is also cheaper. The Commercial Drive neighbourhood is popular for its diversity (35 to 40 minutes to campus by bus).
Commercial Drive area, or “The Drive”
According to thedrive.ca, the Commercial Drive area is “a culturally rich and authentic neighbourhood, and one of the best and most colourful shopping, dining and nightlife districts you will find in the city.” Little Italy is also in this neighbourhood, where you can find a bit of Italian heritage on every block filled with Italian coffee shops, pizza places, and fresh cheese markets.
Gastown is located on the northwest end of the Downtown Eastside (DTES) and also borders downtown Vancouver. According to gastown.org, “Gastown offers a diverse mix of retail and dining options housed within authentic heritage architecture, alongside a vibrant creative and tech scene.” In addition to amazing bakeries and coffee shops, restaurants and nightlife, Gastown also boasts progressive residential options including designer lofts and live/work studios.
You can use these resources to explore the different neighborhoods:
Both West Vancouver and North Vancouver are municipalities north-west of Vancouver on the North Shore. West Vancouver is home to Horseshoe Bay (a ferry terminal for Bowen Island, Vancouver Island, and the Sunshine Coast), Lighthouse Park (great hiking trails and of course, a lighthouse), and Cypress Mountain (one of our local ski mountains.) North Vancouver is home to places like Grouse Mountain and Mt. Seymour (two other local ski mountains), The Lonsdale Quay market (a great collection of unique shops on the waterfront), and the Lynn Canyon Park and Suspension Bridge (a free 600+ acre park full of trails and a bridge suspended 50 metres above Lynn Creek).
If you’ve ever flown into the Vancouver Airport then you’ve been to Richmond, but Richmond is much more than an international airport. From seaside trails to Japanese fishing villages, and from amazing dim sum to Olympic-style sporting venues, Richmond is a great place to live and explore.
On-campus housing does not allow pets. In general though, Vancouver is very dog- and cat-friendly. You will find lots of off-leash areas and dog parks etc. However, not every landlord allows pets in an apartment. Many of the newer condos in downtown (such as Yaletown) do not allow pets. This seems to be more flexible in the older buildings, e.g. in West End. AMS Rentsline allows you to search for pet-friendly accommodation. Sometimes landlords will state that animals are not allowed, but if you only have a small dog or cat they might agree to it. It cannot hurt to ask!
When you compare prices for accommodation, make sure you find out about utility costs. In on-campus housing, several utilities are already included, whereas you might have to pay for these if you rent your own apartment. Most commonly only the rental rate gets published and you will have to ask what utilities you will have to pay for. Utilities can be things such as
- Heat (depending on how the rental place is heated, it might add to your electricity/gas costs)
- Hot water (depending on how the water is heated, it might add to your electricity costs)
- Internet (typically not included in rentals)
- TV/Cable (typically not included in rentals)
- Home phone / landline (typically not included in rentals)
If you get a room somewhere in a house or share a place, it is common that things like Internet, cable, and phone are already available, but you will be asked to share the bills. In many apartment buildings, heat and hot water are included, but if not, this can be a significant added cost.
Cost of living
We have built a Cost of Living Calculator so that you can start building your personal financial plan. This cost calculator highlights general categories of expenses you will have as a graduate student, including housing.
TransLink manages public transport in Vancouver and offers a trip planner which will provide information to you about commuting times from various neighborhoods at tripplanning.translink.ca.
Finding a place to live
If you intend to rent a property privately, the Residential Tenancy website may help you find out more about your rights as a tenant. Renting it Right is a free online course from the Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre which can help you find rental housing and understand your rights.
Resources to help you in your rental search can be found on the UBC Housing website.
Other online resources include:
- UV rentsline
- Co-operative Housing Federation of BC
- Even Better
- Kijiji Real Estate
Some of these websites are known to provide platforms for scammers. Be careful with any offers that seem to be too good to be true - typically they are not true. You should never hand over money in advance, send it by mail, or transfer it without inspecting the accommodation beforehand and being sure that the offer of accommodation is legitimate.
Facebook is another great resource with several groups dedicated to UBC student housing, graduate student housing, and families:
Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies does not recommend any commercial enterprises, but provides this list of local services for information only.