The University of British Columbia is showing off its design for new a kind of student housing — a smaller, more affordable kind of housing. 

The idea is to fit everything a student needs — a double bed, desk, closet, bathroom, and kitchen — into 140 sq. ft. Planners are calling the tiny suites 'Nano Studios.'

When UBC first announced the plan last year, the school was set to build 43 of the units, but after consultations, the number has been increased to 70. The tiny suites will be part of a larger 650-bed complex to be built near the Student Union Building.

Housing affordability challenges

"We know that students are — one of their biggest challenges is finding affordable housing while they're a student. It's an issue for the Vancouver marketplace that we hear about in the news a lot and it's big issue for students," said Andrew Parr, the managing director of student housing and hospitality services at UBC.

"Not only is enrolment growing, but students want to live on campus for longer periods of time. So, both of those things are putting demand on us to add more housing."

Parr said UBC now has about 50,000 students, which is as much as 8,000 more than 10 years ago. During that time, he estimated the school has added 3,000 on-campus housing spaces for students. 

He says last summer, when the student housing wait list was at its peak, there were 6,300 students looking for an on-campus spot.

'Nano Studio' on display

'Nano Studio'

UBC's demonstration 'Nano Studio' is set up in the AMS Student Nest for people to check out. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Even though it will be three years before any student can move into one of the tiny apartments, the school has built a demonstration unit in the middle of the school's AMS Student Nest to show off the design.

The little box in the middle of the atrium was getting lots of attention, Monday morning, with a steady stream of students popping in for a short tour.

"I think the bed and desk combination is really cool, because that saves a ton of space, and I really like the idea of how, kind of, tight it is," said second-year music student Jacques Forest, who lives in Totem Park residence, sharing his bathroom with 32 other guys.

"I mean, I'd love it, because I don't have a kitchen right now, so having that opportunity to cook would be brilliant, and I then your own washroom is really nice, too."

'Nano Studio'

Students stream in and out of UBC's demonstration 'Nano Studio' Monday morning. The 140 sq. ft. units won't be available until 2019. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"It's really nice, compact. It's got everything you need, basically, in just one small space," said second-year biology student Jesse Fu, who pays $750 for rent off campus, about $50 more than the 'Nano Studios' will go for in 2019. "The rent's really nice."

"Even from this morning's interest, I wonder if 70 units is enough," said Parr, adding that more similar units may have to be added to other future developments. "I'm sure there will be a wait list."

A bit of a squeeze for some students

First-year international economics student Joshua Lowin wondered how he would fit his desktop monitor onto the desk that folds neatly under the bed. 

"I wouldn't be able to watch TV, as it were and lie down on the bed at the same time," he said.

"I don't know where I'd put my skis," he added, though he seemed impressed by the size of the bathroom.

"I'm a person who's, like, really messy, so I clutter everything up, and if I were to live in there it would be a disaster," said first-year student Rajit Singh.

UBC plans to add 2,250 more student beds to its campus, before the project that includes the 'Nano Studios' is ready in 2019.