Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits SAIT

The Press queries Trudeau about student housing crunch

THE PM IS  IN THE HOUSE: MP George Chahal, left, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Dean of the School of Health and Public Safety Sonja Chamberlin gather Wednesday at a news conference in the SAIT dental clinic. (Photo by Shelby Befus/The Press)

Help appears to be on the way for post-secondary students — and other Canadians — struggling with the skyrocketing cost of housing.

The specifics of that help, however, remain fuzzy in advance of the federal budget coming down in April.

On Wednesday, SAIT’s The Press asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau how he plans to address the student housing crisis.

“This budget that we’re working on right now will be focused on supporting Canadians and building a better future for the coming years,” Trudeau said.

 “We’ve also moved forward with a wide range of housing programs that are creating more affordable housing and working on a reaching home program to end homelessness.”

After meeting with Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, Trudeau stopped in at the Senator Burns Building on Wednesday and fielded questions from a crowd of reporters in the dental clinic.

The Prime Minister highlighted the Canadian Dental Care Plan and discussed the carbon tax increase, rising tensions in Haiti, former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi’s campaign for the provincial NDP leadership, and the housing crisis.

With the influx of newcomers to Calgary, prices of one- and two-bedroom units shot up by over eight per cent in Calgary over the past year.

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., Calgary’s vacancy rate 2023 plunged to 1.4 per cent in 2023, down from 2.7 per cent in 2022.

“It’s really brutal,” said SAIT student Noah Korver. “I know people are living with five or six roommates to make ends meet.”

Calgary’s average rental cost jumped by 14.3 per cent in 2023, with a two-bedroom apartment renting for an average of $1,695 per month. In 2022, the average cost for a two-bedroom apartment was $1,466.

Korver said he is sacrificing his quality of life so he can afford rent.

“I don’t get tons of sleep sometimes because people are loud,” he said. “I live in a hobbit hole. So I don’t eat very well, because I don’t have space to make food.

 “It makes it a lot harder to eat properly or exercise. It takes a toll on your mental health.”

Student Spencer Poole said he is making adjustments to keep up with his bills.

“I still ask my parents every once in a while to bail me out,” Poole said. “Also, my car doesn’t like it, but I use regular gas rather than mid-grade now.”

When asked about the housing crisis, Trudeau also cited the high number of international students in Canada.

“We need to make sure that those students are being properly supported to get the best quality education and that the numbers of people coming in are manageable to the ecosystems supporting and teaching them,” he said.

In January, the federal government announced a cap on the intake of international students in 2024 and 2025. Next year, the federal government will approve 360,000 study permits, a drop of around 35 per cent from 2023.

The caps will be adjusted by province and territory, weighted by population, and will result in some provinces seeing numbers potentially cut in half.

SAIT international student Dhaval Ahir agrees with the cap.

“I think it’s needed,” Ahir said. “There was an influx of international students, and there are really few housing options.

“I think we should build more apartments to rent, and the problem will take care of itself.”

But Korver holds out little hope that the problem will, in fact, take care of itself.

“It’s bad,” he said. “It’s hard to watch. I end up reading about it, then shutting down and crawling under a rock.”

Without drastic changes in the way Calgary builds and zones new housing, Korver sees no way for him to break into the real estate market.

“I don’t anticipate ever being able to live in a house,” he said. “But at this point, with the amount of money I’m making as a student, I probably won’t be able to afford rent either.”

ON THE HOT SEAT: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau answers media questions flanked by Calgary MP George Chahal, left, David Ross, SAIT president and CEO, and Sonja Chamberlin, Dean of the School of Health and Public Safety.  (Photo by Shelby Befus/The Press)
About Janille Delos Reyes 7 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Janille Delos Reyes is working as a writer for The Press in 2024.