Housing crisis

Housing Crisis Hits Local Post-Secondary Students Hard

As the new school year approaches, Cambridge students say they are in desperate need of accommodation

Students returning to college and university are facing housing shortages in one of the most volatile real estate markets in history.

Wut Yee Kyi Pyar is a PhD student at the University of Waterloo trying to find accommodation in Cambridge.

“The process has just been really tough,” Pyar said. “Whenever I went to school in other places, finding accommodation was quite easy.”

After completing a master’s degree in tourism at Lincoln University in New Zealand, the Burmese came to Ontario to complete her studies.

After being admitted to the program of her dreams, she didn’t expect that one of the hardest parts would be finding accommodation.

“I’ve also looked in Kitchener and Waterloo, but no places seem affordable,” Pyar said.

The doctoral student looked at single rooms in shared accommodation, because there is no question of having your own apartment while being a full-time student.

Pyar has also been the victim of a number of rental scams which she claims tried to take money without providing a lease. She feels that students are being targeted by scammers trying to take advantage of their need to acquire accommodation.

Places4Students is a website that securely connects students with landlords across North America, and they try to reach out to the community and help get more student housing.

Mark Taylor, account manager at Places4Students, said fewer options are available for students in Cambridge, due to the shortage of affordable housing we are seeing across the province.

Taylor calls the conditions pushing students to find housing “a perfect storm.”

When the pandemic hit and online education was introduced, students were studying from home rather than at school. This has left landlords with vacant accommodation and Places4Students sees what was traditionally student accommodation being rented out to families and other non-student groups.

Now that classes are being taken in person, housing demand is starting to return to normal, but a large portion of housing is already booked.

“Many students in 2021 have decided to skip school and take a gap year, so most universities and colleges are seeing a higher than normal influx of students, Taylor said.

This increased number puts more pressure on the housing market, leaving students with fewer options.

The University of Waterloo recently partnered with Places4Students to give its students a better chance of finding accommodation.

“While it is not the school’s responsibility to find housing for students, we do our best to offer the tools and resources to help in their search,” said Glen Weppler, Director of Housing. at the University of Waterloo.

Although the responsibility for providing accommodation does not rest with the school, there is a 100% guarantee for residential accommodation for first-year students. All applications must be submitted in time to secure this opportunity.

This year, Weppler has received calls from students about being unable to find housing and expects that number to increase, closer to the start of the first semester.

Taylor and her team are calling on the community to open its doors to students and help provide them with living space.

“Communities like Cambridge have come together to help those in need,” Taylor said. “When refugees need a place to live, people open their homes and hopefully they can do the same for students.”

“I’m really afraid that I won’t be able to find a place before the start of the semester. I don’t know what I’m going to do if I can’t find a room,” Pyar said.