Post-secondary school students in Canada face 'perfect storm' that's hit their housing budgets
Low supply, high prices, inflexible landlords have made the process 'stressful' for students
To check the legitimacy of potential rentals, international student Shafkat Chowdhury says a few of his Windsor, Ont., friends went to view a handful of homes for him.
"Other houses that they checked, they actually didn't [meet] my expectations because the pictures are really good, showing that the house is in good condition, but when you go physically, the scenery was actually different," Chowdhury said.
The University of Windsor master's student says trying to find a place to live while outside the city isn't easy. And this year was all the more difficult.
With the return of in-person learning, more students have been on the hunt for a spot to rent. But low supply has driven up prices and made it hard to find a good spot. As well, many international students said they're dealing with fake advertisements or ones that have little to no pictures of the house, and landlords who aren't flexible with leasing contracts.
This isn't unique to Windsor. Across Canada, the student housing market has taken a hit, according to Mark Taylor, co-founder of housing assistance organization Places 4 Students.
'COVID-wise for international students we don't have the luxury to think about it. I say that because we worry about living near the university.- Muhammad Ahmedani, UWindsor international student
"We've had a bit of a perfect storm in the last year and a half," Taylor said.
"We've lost rental properties and then we have excess numbers of students coming back this year, so it's created this problem of finding available rentals at a cheap or reasonable rate."
Taylor said the lack of supply is two-fold: Landlords who didn't rent to students during COVID-19 started renting to single families. Many of those homes are still off the student housing market, and with the hot real estate market, some landlords decided to sell.
Taylor said Windsor has always been "a tough community to find rentals."
With travel bans and COVID-19 restrictions, many international students are also arriving later in the semester. But their delayed arrival means they might have even slimmer pickings.
Airbnb an expensive alternative
University of Windsor student McKenna Wright said COVID-19 has made finding a place in Windsor "stressful."
The first-year business student told CBC News she lives in Michigan and received her study permit late.
But to get a work permit post-graduation, she has to be in the country by the start of the winter semester in January.
"I found out the hard way that no one wants to rent to someone for four months," she said. "I chose to pick an Airbnb, which tends to be twice as more expensive."
The price tag for Wright's bedroom initially came out to $7,000 US for four months, but because of an issue with Airbnb, she said, she got it for $3,000. And that's just one bedroom, with shared common spaces.
She knows a few people who have also chosen Airbnb as an option, as they're having a hard time otherwise.
Cannot consider COVID-19
Between finding a home that is clean, spacious, close to campus and reasonably priced, University of Windsor student Muhammad Ahmedani said it's hard to factor in COVID-19 safety.
"COVID-wise for international students we don't have the luxury to think about it. I say that because we worry about living near the university."
Ahmedani said he's glad he found a place close to campus at a reasonable price. But he looked at 10 to 15 houses before signing the right one.
"I would consider myself lucky. If you look at housing around here, students are paying up to $600 to $700 and these are the same you would find for around $300 to $400 anywhere else in Windsor," he said.
Amhedani added he knows some students who are paying $250 per room, but they have six to eight roommates and share one bathroom.