Kitchener-Waterloo

As rents rise this Waterloo student mulls cramming into a house with 5 others

Annabelle Teoli-Hunter is having trouble finding housing in Waterloo for her second year that begins this fall, even though she started searching six months out. The culprit: a shortage of decent, affordable homes in the region. 

In a survey 40 per cent of students said they paid $800/month for a single room

Annabelle Teoli-Hunter is having trouble finding student housing for the fall. (Submitted by Annabelle Teoli-Hunter)

Annabelle Teoli-Hunter is having trouble finding housing in Waterloo, Ont. for her second year at university, this fall. She's coming up against a shortage of decent, affordable homes in the region, even though she started searching six months out. 

She has a short wish list: a clean room with enough space for a desk and bed for no more than $700 per month, preferably with an en suite washroom — but she doesn't think that last one is a realistic option in the area.

"There were a couple of rooms ranging from like $700 a month to $900 a month, and they really weren't up to my standards," she said.

"The rooms were closet-size," she added. "Very little room for any of your personal things or space for you, and the rental rooms were often very packed and kind of dingy. The showers would often have mould in them, so it wasn't really appealing to want to spend that much money monthly on a room."

Teoli-Hunter isn't the only one scrambling to secure decent and affordable housing for the semester.

And for some it's even more dire, says Stephanie Ye-Mowe, Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association's vice president of education. 

The shortage of housing options for students had some considering couch surfing, or traveling great distances to get to school. Ye-Mowe said she's not sure anyone has been forced into that situation just yet, but it's a "major concern." 

Stephanie Ye-Mowe, Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association's vice president of education, says that the affordable housing stock for students is so low, some have talked about couch surfing. (Submitted by Stephanie Ye-Mowe)

Ye-Mowe's organization sent an online survey out to 36,759 undergraduate students at the University of Waterloo by email. Of them, 2,728 respondents indicated that they were looking to live in Waterloo for the winter 2022 semester. 

"Around 40 per cent of students ... reported they were going to pay more than $800 a month as an individual — so living with other folks — and around 12 per cent reported they were going to pay more than $1200 for the same thing," Ye-Mow told The Morning Edition's host Craig Norris.

Ye-Mowe said that students are charged more than those who aren't studying because they may be perceived as gullible, or a liability, while new "luxury" rentals are being built that aren't suited to students. 

Ye-Mowe explained it's not uncommon for there to be five bedrooms in one unit and she wondered whether it's "the right environment to live in to succeed academically."

These factors, coupled with what she sees as rising rent costs, are making it difficult for students returning back after the summer.

Nearly 48 per cent of those surveyed by the student association said they were yet to secure housing less than four weeks from the start of class, and for those who did get a place, about 62 per cent said that it cost more than what they'd budgeted for. 

As for Teoli-Hunter, she says if she doesn't have any luck finding her own place, she's going to move into her friend's room and split the rent. Five people already live in that house.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Chaarani is a reporter for CBC London. You can reach him at james.chaarani@cbc.ca.

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