Students Are Camping Outside Because They Can't Find Housing
Canada's housing market is a major challenge for students who just want to go to class.
Canada's housing market is the subject of daily headlines, and for good reason: finding affordable housing is a major challenge in many parts of the country.
Nowhere does this appear to be truer than in Victoria, British Columbia, where students have turned to camping out full-time because they can't find a place to live near campus.
Some students have purchased used camper vans and tents, relying on Victoria's mild weather to carry them through the semester. While camping out and attending school might sound like a fun adventure, we should call it what it is: university students are going homeless.
How did this happen?
In a word, rent. Southern Vancouver Island has a very low vacancy rate — only about one third of Canada's average, meaning finding an open unit to move into is hard — while the cost of rent has skyrocketed 20% over just the last six months. So even if you're lucky enough to find a place, you might not be able to afford it.
CBC reports that students at the University of Victoria and other nearby schools tell stories of contacting landlords about place after place and never hearing back. Getting new affordable housing built in the area is almost impossible, so students are forced to get creative.
While UVic and others have residence buildings, there simply aren't enough units to house all the students who need them. In many cases, residence is guaranteed only for first-year students, which can mean an ugly awakening come your second year.
The University of Victoria, for example, has 2,100 beds, with another 621 on the way over the next year or so. Still, with enrolments rising, it won't be enough to stem the tide. The region is investigating ways to address this issue, but solutions will take time.
What can you do? (besides camping)
Students in other parts of the country, where camping isn't feasible, are also facing challenges. If you're considering Victoria, Toronto, or another city rich in life, but poor in housing, there's a few things you can try to make your life easier, and find a place to live that isn't made of nylon.
Bear in mind that your results will vary depending when you search. For example, finding an open sublet in the summer might be a lot easier than the fall. You may want to get started looking for a place sooner than you might think.
For almost 20 years, Places4Students has partnered with schools and landlords to find affordable housing for students. Students can search for apartments based on school location, and narrow filters down for sublets and roommates, too. You'll find message boards and other ways to get in touch with people who may have a place for you to live.
While it's less focused on student affairs, and caters more to home buyers than renters, Realtor.ca is another good way to find accommodations in Canada. If you're looking for a realtor to help you, you'll find plenty on the site, ready to share their advice.
Facebook: groups and marketplace
Facebook is still an active platform for people searching for housing. Facebook groups are curated spaces — you may find a group specifically about student housing for your university, or more general groups about student life. If you have a Facebook account, do some digging to see what you find.
Facebook marketplace is more like a classified ads section of a newspaper (remember those?). You might luck out and find someone looking for a roommate or a sublet near your school.
Talk to your student services centre
Don't forget to touch base with your school, as well. If you're concerned about your housing situation, don't suffer in silence. Meet with an advisor — they may have information you don't. Many schools have an accommodations office with experts who can help you navigate rental contracts and interactions with landlords. Having someone knowledgeable in your corner can make all the difference between a good and bad deal.
Be sure to ask about residence placements for upper-year students, as well. If your school only guarantees a spot in residence for first-years, what will you do in your second? Planning ahead can save you a ton of headache down the line.
Finally, you can check out online legal advice. Many free services exist, but be cautious! These sites can be a good starting point but can't substitute for speaking with an actual lawyer.
Homelessness is a serious issue, with a lot of contributing factors. Students forced to live in tents and campers because they can't find a place near their school is a sign: things are on the wrong track. Schools, cities, and landlords need to step up to address this growing problem so students can actually receive the education they work so hard for.
Have more advice for students looking for affordable housing? We'd love to hear it. Best of luck in your search for student housing.
Check out Places4Students