By Max Loslo
Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) students are struggling to find available and affordable living spaces near campus, despite the frequent stream of condominiums being added to the Toronto skyline.
Elm on Yonge, a new condominium being built at Yonge and Dundas streets, is the most recent example of a condominium building being developed close to campus that may be financially unfeasible for many students.
With average rent prices recently hitting a record high—according to a report released by the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board this summer—students say out-of-reach options are the norm.
Rhaia Egleston, a first-year RTA student who recently moved into an apartment with her sister, said finding a place to live was more challenging given their statuses as current full-time students.
“There were multiple places that denied us because we were students,” said Egleston.
“I’m so shocked we even got the place that we did,” she added. “Our landlord had over a hundred offers on it.”
Cherise Burda, a professor in the urban planning department at TMU and expert in Toronto real estate, urban planning and housing affordability said the current housing situation in Toronto for renters, including students, is dire.
She said a mix of different factors including a market built for home ownership, a dramatic rise in the renter population and a lack of units built specifically to rent has resulted in a housing crisis.
“All the cards are stacked against rentals right now,” said Burda.
She added that those in lower economic classes, including students, are being particularly affected by the crisis. “Students are a casualty of this.”
Burda also said condominiums like Elm on Yonge are not solutions to the crisis students are facing. “These condos aren’t cheap, they’re very expensive and we don’t have rent control on anything that was built after 2018.”
It was also announced in June that increases for rent controlled buildings in Ontario will be capped at 2.5 per cent, which is over two times the 2022 increase.
“We haven’t been building an affordable rental supply,” said Berda.
Berda added that buildings that are built specifically for renting are a way to improve the situation. At TMU, this might look like on-campus housing built for students. However, TMU’s resident options are lacking when compared to other universities.
McMaster University, which has a similar number of students as TMU, has over four times the space for students who wish to live on campus. There are 12 residence buildings compared to TMU’s three buildings, equating to 4186 beds at McMaster compared to TMU’s 1114.
“It’s not enough,” said Chrys Dimitrakopoulos, a first-year RTA sport media student. “This school is so big.”
Dimitrakopoulos transferred from York University in 2021, where she said the housing options were far more accessible.
She added that demand exists at TMU for on-campus housing. “A lot of people would move here if they had space for students.”
Dimitrakopoulos is still looking for housing and is hoping to find an apartment for next September, however, she has found it difficult so far.
“It’s quite pricey,” said Dimitrakopoulos, referring to the current market. “Especially if you’re a girl trying to find a place with security that’s not just an apartment on the street.”
Dimitrakopoulos has seen the condo developments near campus, including Elm on Yonge, but she said they are going to take too long or may be financially out of reach.
“It’s going to be beautiful but I know it’s also gonna be pricey.”
Elm on Yonge plans to be completed in spring 2027, long after many current first-year students will have graduated.
For students who have managed to get a spot in one of the school’s residence buildings, facing the current rental market when their time in residence ends can be daunting.
“It’s a little scary to be honest,” said Owen Hill, a first-year RTA student. “I’m an 18-year-old kid who’s never lived on his own and now I’m looking at places to live in downtown Toronto that cost way too much money.”
Hill added that in a perfect world, he would stay on campus after his first year. “Living on [residence] is the easiest thing, if I could live on [residence] for all four years I would.”
When asked about the lack of affordable housing available close to campus, the university referred The Eyeopener to a previous statement given for a separate Eye story about people who are unhoused.
“We will continue to explore more affordable methods to expand residence space near campus and support students in their search for off-campus housing to help them feel less stressed when navigating the housing and renting market in Toronto,” the forwarded email reads.
But these efforts have not stopped many students from having to commute long distances.
Dimitrakopoulos commutes an hour each way to campus. She said this is a burden on her daily schedule.
“Commuting takes up an hour of my time,” she said. “If I lived down here I could spend more of my time working.”
Burda echoed Dimitrakopoulos’ sentiments, adding that the conditions of the market need to change.
“We’re at a critical point where we need to build homes for renters,” said Burda.
“We have had more cranes in the sky for the past four or five years than any city in North America,” said Burda, who adds that she believes the direction of the current market is failing many, including students.
“We’re building [after] building [after] building,” she said. “We have turned out hundreds of thousands of condo units over the past 10 years. How much of that is affordable housing?”