With just a few weeks until classes resume for universities, students coming to Halifax to study are finding a place to live has proven to be a big challenge — especially amid a pandemic and housing crisis in Nova Scotia.
Jesse Sutherland is the president of the Student Union at Mount Saint Vincent University and says the problem arises every year.
This year, however, more students are having trouble finding living accommodations.
And with most campuses reopening to in-person classes, there’s also more competition for fewer available spaces.
“I would say the top issue is affordability,” said Sutherland.
“Rent prices in Halifax really aren’t something most people can afford, let alone folks who are spending part-time or full-time hours trying to get an education.”
She says she has had to help find housing for many students this year, and in most cases the approximate time has been upward of three months to secure living accommodations due to lack of availability.
“Students in general are already so stressed out and have so much to deal with, right? And to worry about where you’re going to live on top of all your studying and your work is quite traumatic,” Sutherland said. “And so we’re seeing rising levels of mental health.”
According to Sutherland, international students, in some cases, are being asked to provide up to three months rent up front.
“Just not being familiar with our tenants rights and rental laws alone can be so troubling for some. Everything in our province is so new to them and that’s just one more piece in the pile,” Sutherland said.
“And so not having family for references or a shoulder to kind of lean on to help them through that process can be troubling.”
Sutherland says this year she has heard of students being homeless or having to “couch surf” at homes of people they barely know.