Commentary: Student housing is essentially ignored by most

Commentary: Student housing is essentially ignored by most

Commentary: Student housing is essentially ignored by most

The housing plight of nearly half a million international students currently in Canada is ignored, with much of public ire and government policy focused at wealthy foreign buyers.

Figures from the Canadian Bureau for International Education put the number of foreign students in Canadian universities and colleges at 435,415 as of the end of last year. This contingent has seen a strong pace of growth in recent years, increasing by 119% between 2010 and 2017.

“Add to that the fact that a larger share of Canadians than ever are attending university or college, and that they are staying in those schools longer, and it becomes a recipe for soaring demand,” according to Daniel Tencer of HuffPost Canada, in his column earlier this week.

Tencer cited a recent analysis by the Real Estate Investment Network, which pinpointed this lack of supply as the major factor behind higher rent rates for spaces situated closer to educational institutions.

“These incoming foreign students need somewhere to live, and with the increased population growth, there will be pressure on the housing market in university towns,” Tencer quoted the REIN study.

The report found that as little as 3% of Canadian university students reside in purpose-built student housing outside campus, compared to the 10% ratio south of the border and 12% in the United Kingdom.

“In Canada, the supply of housing near post-secondary schools ― many of them in built-up urban areas ― isn’t responding to the influx like it has in other countries that have seen a flood of international students, such as the U.S. and U.K.,” Tencer added. “The presence of investors in university housing may be making house prices and rents more volatile in those areas.”

Housing price concerns along with the mounting costs of education are mingling into an unstable concoction that might irreversibly harm these students’ futures, Tencer warned.

“Eventually, policymakers will need to respond to this growing crisis. But first they will have to realize it exists. Let’s hope that happens sooner rather than later.”