Post-secondary students feeling Waterloo housing crunch

Many university and college students in Waterloo say they are feeling the housing crunch when they’re looking for affordable rentals.

“My friend and I are looking for a place for next year, and if you want a two bedroom, two bathroom, nice spot, you are looking at least $1,000 [each per month],” one student tells CTV News.

Secondary market sites like Kijiji and Facebook Marketplace show cheap rooms, but are typically far from the university and less than desirable.

A nice room in the university district often starts around $1,000 per room.

“With the amount of students around Waterloo, everyone is trying to get the student housing close to the school, and the buildings take advantage of that by skyrocketing the prices,” another student tells CTV News.

According to the Waterloo Region Association of Realtors (WRAR), the hot housing market is keeping more people renting for longer and straining the supply.

“Once people can’t afford to purchase, they do go back to that rental market,” said Megan Bell, president of WRAR. “That puts that demand on the rental market.”

Bell says that sometimes housing near the university that would typically go to students is instead going to families.

“Sometimes they are a little more sustainable or an easier tenant,” said Bell. “They are taking a family instead of students.”

Stepanie Ye-Mowe, the president of the University of Waterloo Students’ Association (WUSA), says the impact on students is bleeding into the classrooms.

“To have good mental health to focus on your school, to have to worry about paying for your next meal, or paying for rent, it takes a huge toll,” said Ye-Mowe. “I’ve seen cases where students live in Milton and will actually stay home and commute all the way here with GO Bus because they couldn’t find a place to live here.

“We aren’t normally a commuter school, but it seems like we are going in that direction with the way the housing market is now.”

Ye-Mowe says high costs have some students turning to food banks to make ends meet.

“We are seeing food security become a bigger issue,” said Ye-Mowe. “Our food bank, their food bank, have seen a triple in usage. They are supposed to be just an emergency usage.”

The University of Waterloo is offering to work with students in critical situations and provides a list for short-term and summer accommodations.

Wilfrid Laurier University has partnered with a listing provider to help connect students and landlords.

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