by: Begimay Koigeldi
22-year old Khushi Dave arrived from Mumbai, India in 20222 to pursue Early Childhood Education at Seneca College. Given Toronto’s current rental housing market, where studio and one-bedroom apartments on average cost $2,048 and $2,536 respectively (Rentals.ca), she felt lucky to find a more budget friendly alternative – a private basement room in Scarborough region for $550.
Initially, Khushi was expecting to find accommodation close to college to make commuting more convenient. She started searching for accommodation in the college area at Finch and Don Mills. She was surprised to find out that rent close to college was very expensive. There was also very little price difference in student housing rent compared to renting off-campus accommodation she mentioned.
“If you’re looking like walking distance from the college, it’s going to be really hard to find affordable housing. Because around the college, it’s always expensive. Even if you want to stay in the student accommodation, that is again expensive.”
Khushi also highlights challenging aspects of the accommodation search process itself. Specifically, she mentions that limited responses from landlords, advance monthly installments pay and limited prior notice time are some of such factors that make the process lengthy and stressful for new home seekers.
“Getting a response from landlords is really hard. They don’t instantly respond to you. Everywhere you go you have to pay for first and last months in advance. You have to give prior notice and everything. So it’s, it’s a lengthy process.”
“A lot of landlords try to take advantage of international students when they just come here. They’re new. They don’t know a lot of stuff. So they’re taking advantage of it.”
Although Khushi has managed to find affordable housing, the rent still takes up a major portion of her living costs. To support herself, cover all the bills and other living expenses she is forced work 40 hours a week on top of her studies.
“It is really challenging as most of my paycheck is going towards the rent. And that leaves literally, little to no money left for other things”
In a move to address housing challenges for students, the federal government is stepping up its efforts to build more student housing. The government announced a change to the Apartment Construction Loan Program, offering low-cost loans to construct student housing both on and off-campus.
“By allowing post-secondary institutions to access low-cost loans, we will help more students find affordable places to live close to where they study.” says Housing Minister Sean Fraser.
Canada boasts world-renowned higher learning institutions, contributing not only to education but also to job creation and vibrant communities. However, Fraser says, when students struggle to find housing near their schools, it can impact the local community, driving up rent and limiting housing availability for everyone.
When asked about the potential impact of low-cost loans on student housing affordability, Khushi reacted by saying:
“Um, it could benefit in really. Because when a person comes here for the first time the biggest challenge is getting an apartment for yourself and finding one. As you come from another country. Right? And the prices can really put you in a shock at times. So, I think that initiative should really make it more affordable.”
Jhanvi Csheth moved to Toronto last year and studies at York University for Business Administration. She is optimistic about the government announcement.
“It seems to me that this will actually work and affect international students only after 3-4 years.”
Jhanvi also highlighted the difficulty in finding affordable housing and managing living costs while studying and working.