Friday, August 12 2022

Western University student Hannah Alper sits outside her home in London, Ont., on July 1. She obtained off-campus housing for this fall as early as November 2021.Alicia Wynter/The Globe and Mail

Less than three months into her Western University debut, Hannah Alper had already secured off-campus housing for her sophomore year.

Next September, the 19-year-old who specializes in media and the public interest will live in a detached house in downtown London, Ontario, with six other roommates for the reasonable price of $550 per month plus utilities. . It’s a deal she said she couldn’t have gotten if she hadn’t started house hunting nearly a year in advance.

“Everyone my age or older was advising me to start looking in October-November,” said Ms. Alper, who lived in residence during her freshman year at Western. “It’s crazy.”

The availability and affordability of housing for students has long been an issue in large cities and some small towns with large university or college populations. But the resumption of face-to-face classes and the return of international students have added fuel to the flames of an already overheated rental market.

The average asking rate for properties available on Rentals.ca, a national rental listing site, reached $1,888 per month in May, an increase of 3.7% from April and an increase of 10, 5% compared to the same month last year.

In British Columbia, students move in with seniors to save on rent and avoid senior isolation

Renting is supposed to offer mobility and flexibility. So why do so many renters feel stuck?

Rising mortgage interest rates are diverting some of Canada’s housing demand from the ownership market to the rental market, contributing to rapidly rising rents and fierce competition among potential tenants, some housing experts say .

And for future international students, who are not a year ahead in their search for accommodation, the rental challenge can be particularly difficult.

In Toronto, Sundeep Bahl, a Re/Max Real Estate Solutions salesperson who represents condominium investors, said that over the past two months he has regularly heard from international students willing to pay up to a year’s rent. in advance. While landlords aren’t allowed to accept such offers, they are an indication of the unforgiving rental market reality that many newcomers face, he said.

Although short-term factors are exacerbating student rental problems, their difficulties are a symptom of a broad and long-standing problem, according to experts such as Mike Moffat.

Canada is welcoming growing numbers of students from around the world but has failed to properly consider their housing needs and build enough for them, said Moffatt, an economist and senior director of the Institute for Education. ‘ProsperitySmart.

International student enrollment in post-secondary institutions nearly tripled in a decade and stood at nearly 390,000 in the 2019-20 academic year, according to Statistics Canada figures.

And although the number of study permit holders fell in 2020, it quickly rebounded in 2021 and 2022, amid easing concerns about COVID-19, according to data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. Canada.

The increase reflects international recruitment efforts by universities and colleges, as well as the lure of Canada’s immigration policy, which generally allows students to work while studying and after with a post-graduation work permit, said Mr. Moffatt, who served as an economic adviser to the Liberal leadership of Justin Trudeau between 2013 and 2015.

The ability to earn income while studying, in particular, has helped colleges, which have lower tuition and attract more budget-conscious international students, Moffatt said. While universities still accounted for about 60% of international enrollment in 2019-20, the number of international students in colleges nearly quadrupled in the decade up to then, according to Statistics Canada data.

And Canada’s easy path to permanent residency for international graduates means many international students are likely to stay in the country, Moffatt said; the policy facilitates the integration of foreigners with Canadian credentials and work experience into the country’s labor market. But it also creates additional housing demand that is often not accompanied by an increase in supply, he added.

Yet the problem of undercoverage in Canada does not only concern international students. This also extends to domestic companies, argued CIBC economists Benjamin Tal and Katherine Judge in a recent report. In addition to understating the number of immigrants and non-permanent residents, the country’s official count of new households — which is used to estimate housing demand — also misses many Canadian students, Tal said. and Mrs. Judge.

Indeed, in the population census, Statistics Canada considers that the place of usual residence of post-secondary students is that of their parents if they return home periodically or plan to do so in the future. That’s even if they live elsewhere during the school year or while working a summer job, the report says.

Overall, Mr. Tal and Ms. Judge estimate that Canada is underestimating the housing demand of nearly 500,000 households, including students, immigrants and other non-permanent residents.

For Mr. Moffatt, that means the challenges of finding a home aren’t going away anytime soon.

“We’ve already seen rental prices go up quite a bit over the past year and those pressures are likely to continue,” he said.

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