Montreal-area students face housing crunch

Click to play video: 'As students in Montreal struggle to find affordable housing, sometimes several people squeeze into small apartments'
As students in Montreal struggle to find affordable housing, sometimes several people squeeze into small apartments
As students move back to Montreal to prepare for the new academic year, a study shows they’re facing a housing crunch. Rent has jumped an average of 20 per cent in two years. As Global’s Phil Carpenter reports, fewer and more expensive options mean uncomfortable compromises. – Aug 16, 2023

As students get set to return to school in Montreal, a study released Wednesday shows that they are facing more challenges than ever to get housing.

According to the survey by L’Unité de travail pour l’implantation de logement étudiant (UTILE), an organization that builds student housing, rents for students jumped 20 percent over the last two years for two-bedroom apartments.  Furthermore, half the nearly 200,000 students who rent in Montreal, make under $20,000 annually.

That’s not all.

“We are seeing 10 percent of our respondents living three people or more in apartments of 1 bedroom or less, and this is a level of overcrowding that we didn’t see in data previously,” UTILE co-founder and general manager, Laurent Levesque told Global News.

Among the students affected are Ali Ramma who’s studying international business at Montreal’s Concordia University.  He says this July, his landlady hiked the rent on a three-bedroom apartment he rents with two other students, from $2,000 to $3,000 monthly.

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“I was a full-time student, now I’m a part time student so I can work more to be able to afford rent,” he explained.

He added that it’ll take him an extra year to finish his degree by studying part time.

Concordia tries to help with housing by providing just over a thousand residences in its campus housing programme but students under-18 pupils from out of town have priority.

University spokesperson Fiona Downey believes part of the student housing challenges is a result of the city’s success in attracting students.

“(The city is) perennially among the top picks for people studying in North America, with Boston and Montreal coming out on top,” she pointed out.

Levesque notes, however, that the housing crunch could threaten Montreal’s top ranking, further hurting students.

“They’re really paying the price of the current state of the housing market, especially in cases where they are forced to live in inner city boroughs close to campuses where the rents are the highest,” he observed.

To help with that UTILE recently purchased land from Centraide to build a student complex.

“They had an unused parking lot in the Plateau Mont Royal, one of the districts in Montreal with the highest student concentration,” Levesque explained.

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According to Downey Concordia is also looking for more spaces where their students can rent, a challenge, she acknowledges given the high demand for affordable housing in the city.

Until housing projects are completed though, some in 3 to 5 years, experts say students will have to find a way to manage.

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