By Samira Balsara
Apartment hunting for Ryerson students has become difficult with Toronto rent prices slowly heading back to pre-pandemic rates.
Mikayla Guarasci, a second-year sport media student, said it was hard to find an affordable place that still provided the amenities she and her roommates needed.
“We wanted to make sure we found a place that was safe, secure and close to campus to make things easier when we are in-person,” Guarasci said.
She also added that landlords are sometimes wary of selling to students, which makes renting harder.
According to the Toronto GTA August Rent Report, the average rental rates in the GTA bounced back from “reaching a local low” in April.
The report stated that rental rates are expected to “continue their steady rise” as the Toronto economy starts to emerge from the pandemic.
In July, Toronto had the highest rent with a 4.7 per cent monthly increase and an average rent of $2,167 for all property types.
At the end of August, The Globe and Mail reported that the Toronto condo rental market was in a “complete frenzy,” with prices skyrocketing.
The article cited data from real estate consulting firm Urbanation Inc., which revealed that 5,221 Toronto condo apartments leased in July were now up 40 per cent from the same time last year.
Ryerson students also said they are dealing with fewer options when looking for apartments.
“We wanted to make sure we found a place that was safe, secure and close to campus to make things easier when we are in-person”
Ben Chandler, a third-year sport media student originally from Vancouver, usually moves back to Toronto for school every year. He said apartment hunting was challenging this year due to the lack of options and clarity.
“Apartment hunting has been my least favourite thing I’ve done,” he said, adding that the hardest part about it is finding an affordable place with a lack of options.
Chandler said real estate agents in the city will list a one-bedroom apartment with a den as a two-bedroom.
He said the misleading descriptions make looking for a place to live even more difficult.
He added that he feels the school does not help out students as much as it could when it comes to apartment-hunting downtown.
“Ryerson claims that they have [services to help] students. I went to them for help, and they just told me. ‘Yeah, we can’t help you.’ You’re gonna either just spend $5,000 a month, which is not true, or go live at [dormitory]. I don’t want to do either of those two things,” he said.
A 2019 article called “Post-Secondary Student Homelessness in Canada: New Research on Prevalence, Intervention and Prevention,” revealed that roughly 4 per cent of Canadian post-secondary students experience some sort of homelessness daily.
The article, featured in Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, found that about 80,000 students are “couch surfing, sleeping in a vehicle, locker room, stairwell or shelter today.”
Cathy Crowe, a visiting practitioner at Ryerson, street nurse and an expert on affordable housing, said the costly home issue and lack of housing for students has been prevalent since the early 1990s.
“Canada once had a national housing program like Medicare…We built 20,000 new units a year across the country,” she said.
The program was Canada’s National Housing Act. Major amendments to this act were made in the late 1940s such as providing federal and provincial programs to fund publicly owned and provincially managed housing for low-income families.
“We need the government to know that we have to find housing because private sectors won’t do it on their own”
In Crowe’s piece, “Canada needs a new housing plan,” published in The Globe and Mail, she wrote “the National Housing Act in 1949 led to expanded federal funding for social housing—a national housing program that by 1964 was close to being a universal program for several decades.”
In the spring of 1993, the program faced serious budget cuts by the government and could not continue to build housing to support people.
“This crisis we’re in is because that program was killed,” she said in an interview with The Eyeopener.
Condo buildings in Toronto continue to be built, but they are sold at unaffordable prices that students cannot afford.
However, according to Crowe, the COVID-19 pandemic has played an interesting role in creating a possible solution to the housing crisis.
“There are going to be many empty office buildings and hotels that go out of business that are going to be very attractive purchases for people, including, I would hope, universities to purchase and renovate into residences,” she said.
Crowe suggested that rather than tearing these buildings down and making new ones that most can’t afford, renovating these empty buildings into housing for students could be the best solution.
She added that it is not only affordable housing for students but it is a more sustainable approach as well.
A possible example of this is the Bond Place Hotel, which served as a recovery space for homeless people who had COVID-19 during the pandemic. Currently, it operates as a shelter and hotel, but Crowe said it will not stay like that forever.
“The question is will they go back into operation as a hotel? Will they still be financed? Or will they really be wanting to sell?” she said.
Crowe said she doesn’t think any more research is needed to prove that there is a housing crisis.
“We need the government to know that we have to find housing, because private sectors won’t do it on their own,” Crowe said.
Not sure why she assumes major renovations to a down hotel( very high property values due to location) would lead to affordable housing. That would be a very costly venture and rents would reflect that.
It’s great to see coverage of this issue – affordable student housing is extremely important.
That being said, it’s a little disheartening to see no mention of TMU’s ORIGINAL student residence option (Before Pitman Hall, ILLC or Daphne Coxwell Centre) there was Neill-Wycik; a student housing co-operative created by students from Ryerson Polytechnic Institute, and built in the late 1960’s. Neill-Wycik was the first high rise student dwelling for Ryerson students, and to this day our membership is comprised of about 80% students from TMU. We’re literally right across the street from campus, and our housing rates are on average $580 per month – so pretty close to 1/3 of market rate. All of this is possible because Neill-Wycik is a co-operative, which means that there is no Landlord trying to exploit students for profit. It was started by students for students, and this is why our rates can be as low as they are.
It would be great to see more coverage of issues of affordable housing in your publication, but I think it’s important to spread awareness of alternative housing models as a solution to the problem. Neill-Wycik is literally right behind the building in the photo for this article (just down the street from Avante, and right beside 86 Gerrard St., which is the building in the top right of the photo). The issue of affordability is critical, but let’s also mention that there is a solution, and it’s right at your doorstep. BUILD MORE CO-OP HOUSING, and pressure the University Administration to pursue that option rather than partnering with private for profit developers who are going to charge students an arm and a leg.