Housing crunch adding to back-to-school stress, students say

Students at Ottawa's universities and colleges say the city's housing crunch is adding unwanted stress as they struggle to afford tuition and settle into school.

University, college students facing rising rents, dwindling supply in Ottawa

Post-secondary students in Ottawa say it's more difficult than ever to find suitable rental housing off campus. (David Zalubowski/Associated Press)

Students at Ottawa's universities and colleges say the city's housing crunch is adding unwanted stress as they struggle to afford tuition and settle into school.

"It's been really hard to just find a place that works for me, that fits my budget and that I can call a home," said Maria Rey, a third-year student at Carleton University.

Rey said finding suitable housing has been more challenging this year than the previous two. She said she's been searching for a month, intensifying her efforts over the past two weeks while she stays with a friend.

"Where I live is really important to me, so it's my Number 1 priority when it comes to my budget," she said.

Rey has had to nearly double her budget, and worries the time she's spending hunting for a place to live is cutting into the time she'd otherwise spend studying or working.

"It takes away from time that I actually need for school, and that's also an added stress that I really don't need," she said.

Maria Rey says she feels the housing crunch this year more than her first two years of university. (Supplied)

Rents skyrocketed

A recent rental market analysis by the City of Ottawa showed rents have skyrocketed in the past few years because the supply of new units has lagged behind the demand. Some students are also finding provincial funding cuts are adding to their budget burden.

Monica Edwards said she spent months looking for a house off campus before starting at Algonquin College this fall.

"It was really, really slim pickings for finding places that were around my budget," the first-year student said. "I felt kind of scared because I didn't know if I'd actually end up with a place, for the first semester at least."

Edwards got lucky and finally found a place last month through a Facebook group. It was within her budget and close to campus.

Monica Edwards spent months searching for a place to live ahead of her first year at Algonquin College. 'It was pretty scary,' she said. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

Always a trade-off

The Algonquin Students' Association offers resources to students looking for off-campus housing, including hosting an online portal where landlords can advertise spaces for rent. As of Thursday, there were 50 listings.

"There's always lots available, but is it in the right location? Is it something they can actually afford? And is it going to offer them the privacy that they need to be independent?" said Michael Wolff, the association's director.

A listing on the web portal hosted by the Algonquin Students' Association. (Algonquin Student Housing Listings web portal)

Wolff said most students don't have much wiggle room when it comes to their housing budget. He said even an extra $100 per month can be a deal-breaker, because that's money that's not available for other necessities.

"Price is the Number 1 factor for students," Wolff said. "It's hard to balance part-time work with full-time school and come up with enough money to pay for school and rent and groceries."

Edwards said before she finally landed a place, she felt she was always making a trade-off.

"Even if it was in my budget, it [was] just way too far away," Edwards said.


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