Student housing options while attending post-secondary institutions range from on-campus housing, family home, secondary suites or shared accommodations in the rental market. However, unless students live at home, housing can pose some serious challenges.
According to the spring Rental Market Survey released by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), Calgary has the second-highest average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment at $1,319, second only to Vancouver.
Devin Theriault, a construction project management student from Yellowknife, said he was on SAIT’s residence waitlist for three months before he secured a room.
“I was worried,” Theriault said. “I couldn’t start school if I didn’t have a place to live.”
Theriault said for three months after getting waitlisted he didn’t know if he would be starting his program. After his first year, Theriault found shared accommodation in Kensington, one stop away from campus and central to everything he needed.
CMHC’s Rental Market Survey is conducted twice a year in April and October, with reports released in June and December.
According to the June report the vacancy rate forecast for October 2015 was expected to increase, as was the rent – “albeit at a more subdued pace than in previous years.” The report confirmed that rent increases in 2014 were attributed to stronger demand, mostly because of a 2.6 per cent employment growth.
While there has been an influx in new builds in the city over the last 24 months to accommodate both Calgary’s status as beacon city to the rest of Canada and the record number of migrants welcomed in 2013, the rental supply expanded, lifting the vacancy rate.
As purpose-built rental units reached completion and the level of migration subsided, the forecast for the apartment vacancy rate in October 2015 was three per cent – more than double the 1.4 per cent it was in 2014.
Since the Alberta economy has slowed resulting in thousands of layoffs, particularly in the oil and gas industry, many people who moved to Calgary for employment are moving back home, resulting in a vacancy lift.
Property owners may refrain from increasing rent rates, as tenants will have more options in purpose-built rentals instead, the report stated.
I couldn’t start school if I didn’t have a place to live – Devin Theriault, a construction project management student from Yellowknife
Hayley Banyard, a graphic communications and print technology student at SAIT, said she applied for residence housing in July 2013 as a back up while she house hunted.
“I didn’t get a room until the first day of school,” she said.
Banyard said she sees little value for the rent she pays on campus with three roommates, adding that the average two-bedroom apartment in Calgary would cost less with better amenities.
“Finding something available and close to transit was the hardest part,” she said.
David Turpin, the University of Alberta’s new president, said it isn’t easy finding accommodations from afar, and when people come from somewhere else they want to know where they will live.
Turpin is initiating a new goal that will guarantee a room for all first-year students.