International student housing crisis demands action

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Stressed woman holds cardboard box of personal belongings

Students in Canada, particularly international students, are struggling to find affordable housing.

The total number of international students with valid study permits in Canada reached a record high of 807,750 in December 2022, 30% up on the previous year.

Ontario alone is home to half of these students. With limited on-campus options and soaring rental prices, many have resorted to sharing one-bedroom units with multiple roommates.

“We have seen enrolment go up substantially since about 2015… but colleges and universities have barely built any student residences in the last 10 to 15 years,” says Western University economist Mike Moffat.

As a specific example highlighted by Cushman & Wakefield, McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario increased its undergraduate on- and off-campus housing by just 2% between 2020 and the end of the 2022-2023 fiscal year. The total number of on-campus beds in 24 of the largest student housing markets across Canada stands at around 100,000, only about 10% of total full-time student numbers.

While building more on-campus affordable housing for students may seem like an obvious solution, Frank Clayton, senior research fellow at the Centre for Urban Research and Land Development, points out it’s not that straightforward: “Universities can’t afford to provide housing at below market rents to students, because as well as building the accommodation, they then have to cover the costs to maintain the building over time.”

In the meantime, property managers and owners can help pick up some of the slack. They can work closely with colleges and universities to actively promote available units to students, to tap into an underserved market.

More student housing headlines

Western University to build more student housing amidst city-wide housing crunch – CBC

Ontario asks colleges to guarantee housing to foreign students – Reuters

Universities and colleges want to enrol more students. But where are they supposed to live? – National Post

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