How to Find Affordable Housing as a Student
Canada's housing market is rough, so finding a place to live as a student isn't always easy, especially after first year. Here's how you can find a spot.
The housing market in Canada is constantly making headlines — there's just not enough apartments to meet rising demand. This has forced some students to resort to sleeping in tents because they can't find a place to live.
Don't let this happen to you! When planning for your education, spend some time looking at where you'll live. Many schools guarantee a place in residence for first-year students, which is great, but what happens in second year? (On this note, some students can become residence advisors and live on-campus rent-free. Something to consider if you're looking for more things to do at school!)
Here are some ways to find a place as a student. Have other ideas? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter @scholarshipsca or Instagram @scholarshipscanada!
Places4Students partners with colleges, universities, and landlords directly, to make finding off-campus student housing easier. They've got nearly 200 schools across North America under their umbrella, including 159 schools in Canada.
You'll find property listings, roommate profiles, message boards, and advice for both tenants and landlords.
Check out their list of partner schools and see if the schools you're interested in work with Places4Students.
If you want a real estate professional working alongside you, you may have some luck with Realtor.ca. They've got thousands of listings across Canada, and while they're focused more on home ownership, you'll also find listings for apartments and room rentals.
Working with an actual realtor is another story. Realtors are real estate experts who take a commission for helping you find a home. When searching for an apartment or room to rent, you probably won't need to work with an actual realtor.
"Rent seeker" may be a disparaging term, but the site with the same name is all good. They've got a tool that lets you search by province and school, and serves map-based results to help you find a place to live. The listings contain lots of info, like amenities and features included with your rent.
Student.com is focused specifically on finding off-campus student housing, in Canada and abroad. This site's unique because you can even browse by private or shared rooms — so if your budget is tight, you may be able to share accommodations with another student (or three...).
Kijiji is a huge online classified ads website, where regular people can post listings for all sorts of things — including rental options. With Kijiji, you can sort by long- or short-term rentals, and even search just for shared rooms if you're trying to keep costs low. Be wary of scams and offers that are too good to be true!
Facebook groups and marketplace
Of course, social media is a go-to spot. Many schools and cities will have their own student housing groups, which may be informally organized by students themselves to support one another. If you've got a Meta account (that is, Facebook or Instagram) you can browse for groups that fit your needs.
The Marketplace is a forum for users to buy and sell with one another. This can be a good way to find rental opportunities, too. Like any other online classified site, be careful of scams!
Of course, you should also touch base with your school's student resource centre. Many schools will have a housing office with links and recommendations to off-campus housing options in their area. Local landlords will often contact schools to let them know about availability, meaning your school may have connections that are hard to find otherwise.
Some experts at your school, or even as part of the student union or other local groups, may be able to help you review your potential lease, and help you decide if an offer is suspicious. Be sure to ask around for opinions and options.
Red flags to watch for
We mention being wary of scams; some landlords will try to take advantage of you. Here's some things to watch for:
- No clear pictures of the interior
- Landlord wants you to pay to view the place before renting
- Landlord wants personal info, like bank account or SIN details
- "Handshake deals" — be sure to get your lease in writing
- Don't deal only in cash! Landlords should expect a cheque or even e-transfer
Landlords can legally ask for first and last month's rent up-front, but ONLY when signing your lease! Don't pay a cent until you've signed a legal contract.
Canada's not building enough housing units to support population growth, and there's no real plan to do so, either. As a student, you may be left to fend for yourself when it comes to finding a place to live. In general, smaller towns may have cheaper rent costs, but may also have fewer options overall.
If you can stay with family or friends for cheap or reduced rent, definitely consider it. Living with your parents while in college or university isn't most people's idea of fun, but the money you could save could help set you up for a better future, so think things through before moving out!
The resources in this article will help you navigate the difficult housing market in Canada, but be aware: costs are high. Market rents across the country are as high as they've ever been — and not just in the biggest cities. All across the country, people are feeling the squeeze. When planning your education, be sure that you're aware of the student housing crisis in Canada. Best of luck!
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