'Unheard of for us': UPEI hit by housing crisis
'I've never seen students have this much trouble trying to find housing'
Staff at the University of Prince Edward Island say they've never seen a more difficult year for students to find housing and they're coming up with solutions to get them into homes.
The school's director of ancillary services, Jonathan Oliver, said a growing student population combined with low vacancy rates in Charlottetown have made this year extremely challenging.
"Our wait-list for residence, which typically would start to really build probably around the first to middle of July, really took off in the first of May and that was unheard of for us," he said.
All 440 of the school's residence spaces are taken. There are about 100 people on the school's wait-list for housing. There's been a roughly 20 per cent jump in the number of students wanting to return to on-campus residences.
Brown's Court, a popular apartment complex for students across the street, has 185 units. Operators say all of them are full.
It's meant the university has had to come up with a number of different solutions, including hiring an off-campus housing co-ordinator.
Chelsea Almeida has taken on that job as of three weeks ago. She acts as a liaison between students looking for housing and any available listings in Charlottetown and the surrounding area.
"It's been busy and it's just a lot of organization," Almeida said. "It's been a lot of students having a very difficult time trying to secure housing and if they are finding anything, it's incredibly expensive."
Staff asked to open up homes
Almeida has worked with the admissions department at the university before this and said she's "never seen students have this much trouble trying to find housing."
She said what is available in town is usually priced beyond what students are able to pay. Anything affordable seems to be too far outside the city.
Since starting, Almeida said she's made progress but is still focused on the approximately 100 students still needing accommodations.
UPEI has partnered with the Dutch Inn in Cornwall to provide temporary housing for students until they find more permanent solutions. It's also reached out to its own staff to see who would be willing to house a student — a first for the school.
"We're looking at hopefully building a list of availability and just hoping to let [students] start their studies in a safe and secure way and let them focus on school," Almeida said.
Apartment hunting on foot
Janina Mezger recently moved from Germany to attend UPEI and said finding a place to live wasn't easy.
"It was pretty difficult," said Mezger. "They put me on a waiting list for the residencies here so I decided to stay with a homestay family."
Second-year Eyi Leu took more drastic measures to find housing. Leu said she went searching for apartments on foot with cash in hand for a deposit in order to secure a place.
"I walked around for three hours, four hours per day" she said.
Fellow second-year student Victor Kolawole had a little more luck. Kolawole, from Nigeria, was able to move in with a mutual acquaintance but said he's anticipating a move next year once his roommate graduates from school.
"Everywhere I've been trying to search people are saying 'oh you have to be on the waiting list,'" he said.
Almeida said staff are making progress but that the work is far from over. She asks anyone who may have or know of a place for a student, to get in touch with the university.