UBC’s Alma Mater Society (AMS) may have found a way to save the Whistler Lodge hostel from sale and demolition, by simply shifting its purpose from a business to a service.
AMS vice president of finance, Joaquin Acevedo, submitted a report Aug. 19 proposing a financial model that will see the lodge run net neutral as a service to students, while relying on a university fund to finance repairs and upgrades.
“If you run it as a business, in the view of our board of directors, it should really take into account all of the expenses that go into it, including capital costs,” Acevedo said. “As a service, we would essentially ignore all of the capital costs.”
The service-model analysis sees the lodge earning $30,000 annually by 2014. This is based on a number of factors, including a $5 rate increase for non-students to $35 per night and increased occupancy.
Over the past 10 years occupancy at the 42-bed hostel has been declining, but since hitting it’s lowest rate in 2011, there has since been an upward trend in student usage. The trend is expected to continue over the next few years, making the net-neutral model possible given the implementation of several recommendations, including the pursuit of off-campus partnerships, notably with Simon Fraser University and Kwantlen College, to increase membership, the development of a marketing strategy and the approval to access the Student Spaces Fund for immediate improvements and repairs to the lodge.
UBC students each contribute almost $16 a year toward the fund, which currently holds a balance of $481,000, according to The Ubyssey, UBC’s campus newspaper.
Last year students voted down a referendum to sell the property following a $40,000 operating loss for the 2011 fiscal year. In March of this year the student council refused to a request for a $30,000 estimate on structural, mechanical, electrical and architectural repairs.
AMS council will vote on the recommendation to designate the lodge as a service to students at their Sept. 25 meeting.
“To be honest, it’s hard to say which way it will be going,” Acevedo said. “We’re trying to do a little more consultation with our students and some of the stakeholders there (in Whistler), so we get a little more direction from our constituency.”
The AMS estimates it could earn $2 million by selling the property, on which the structure itself would most likely be demolished.