Hundreds of post-secondary students in Calgary hunting for housing as campus residences full

As the fall semester approaches, hundreds of incoming students are without a place to live as campus housing across Calgary is full and the city's competitive rental market persists.

First time in 10 years MRU has a waitlist, says residence services representative

A sign indicating the East Student Residence at Mount Royal University.
Mount Royal University has capacity to house about 950 students, and all units are currently spoken for. (David Bell/CBC)

As the fall semester approaches, hundreds of incoming students are without a place to live as campus housing across Calgary is full and the city's competitive rental market persists.

University of Calgary residences are filled for September and the wait list is nearing 750.

That's up from last year in August, when 500 students were on the list. 

The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, too, is at capacity, with about 100 students waiting for housing.

And Mount Royal University has a wait list for the first time in 10 years, with most of its 950 residences reserved.

"This is unprecedented," said Mark Keller, director of residence services at MRU.

A man and woman in a selfie side by side in front of a brick wall.
Andres Sanchez, right, and his partner are relocating from Ecuador to Calgary in August so that he can start his masters program at the University of Calgary. They're renting an Airbnb for the first month as they can't find a place to live. (Submitted Andres Sanchez)

Calgary's rental vacancy rate dropped to a near decade low last year in October, and rental costs have increased since.

Keller says new and returning students are looking to campus housing as a way to escape the tight rental market, but there isn't enough supply for that increased demand.

Student renting Airbnb

Andres Sanchez and his partner are moving from Ecuador this fall in order for him to start a masters program at the University of Calgary.

But after two months of looking, he says they've had to rent an Airbnb for the first month of his schooling, as they haven't been able to lock down a longer-term rental.

"[It's] difficult and [I'm] a little let down, because of the price," he said.

Sanchez says further complicating the search are scam offers for places to rent, which are hard to verify while he hunts for housing from another country.

The growing wait list emphasizes a need to build more housing for students, says Shaziah Jinnah Morsette, University of Calgary students' union president.

A woman in a purple dress and while belt stand in the student offices at the University of Calgary.
U of C students' union president Shaziah Jinnah Morsette says, in addition to the high cost of living and tuition increases, students are also facing challenges securing a home this semester. (Submitted by the University of Calgary Students' Union)

She says as enrolment increases the problem will only worsen, as more students will have to rent all across the city, where transit may not be as accessible for them.

"There's at least 700 students that are going to be looking for housing out in the community now instead. And that means that, you know, students are going to struggle," she said.

She says students are already facing tuition hikes and increased costs for necessities like groceries.

Call out for spare bedrooms

In a written statement, the U of C said that it is working to help students find places to stay off-campus.

A spokesperson for the university said this month they will be advertising in community newsletters and via social media "with the goal of informing Calgarians of the housing shortage impacting our students and an appeal asking people to consider renting out spare bedrooms."

The U of C students' union has paid to make it free for students and landlords to post on — a website that works with campuses across Canada to post rental listings for students.

Mark Keller at MRU says students should apply for housing anyway, as "we'll do our best to house absolutely everybody we can."

The U of C says they are in the midst of conducting an "analysis of long-term student housing demands" in order to make decisions about their needs in the future.


Jennifer Dorozio

Reporter & Associate Producer

Jennifer Dorozio is a local journalist from Calgary. She ran a pop-up CBC bureau in Lethbridge in early 2022, covering news in southern Alberta.