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‘Desperate pleas:’ Halifax university students struggling to find housing

Click to play video: 'Challenges in Halifax finding people permanent housing options' Challenges in Halifax finding people permanent housing options
As the Halifax Regional Municipality ponders police involvement to vacate a park that has become the face of the city’s housing crisis, more than a quarter of the modular housing units remain vacant. As Callum Smith reports, even with those vacancies, challenges remain to find people a permanent housing option. And tensions are rising. – Aug 4, 2022

A shortage of housing for students both on and off campus has been alarming for Nova Scotia university staff and student unions trying to help.

With only three weeks until classes start, the situation is looking grim.

President of the student union at the University of King’s College (UKC) in Halifax, Victoria Gibbs, said there are still many first-year students on the hunt for accommodations.

“They’re reaching out with desperate pleas, like, ‘Please, do you know anyone that you can connect me with? I’m looking for a roommate and I’m looking for a place to live. I can’t get in anywhere,’” said Gibbs.

“There is simply not enough housing both on campus and off campus in Halifax that’s affordable and accessible for students.”

Read more: Nova Scotia’s housing crisis: How the emergency has reached a boiling point

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Gibbs has been in the King’s Student Union (KSU) in other roles in the past years, and has never seen this amount of students reaching out before the school year even started.

During COVID-19, at least several rooms at UKC were reserved as “isolation rooms,” but that’s been taken away this school year, said Gibbs.

“Every single room is fully occupied,” she said. “They’ve converted any room that could be made into a double room, into a double room. They have maxed out their capacity on campus.”

Gibbs also said there has never been this many upper-year students living on campus at King’s.

There are currently 15 first-year students on the university’s on-campus housing waitlist, though there are many more trying to find housing off-campus too.

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This issue is not unique to King’s students either.

From Cape Breton to Yarmouth, all 14 campuses of Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) are in the same boat.

The NSCC manager of housing Chauncey Kennedy said there’s a variety of problems with housing.

“We’re seeing a bit more increase in housing prices, as well as some of the property owners getting out of the rental market… and engaging in other types of rental or selling family homes,” Kennedy said.

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In an effort to address the housing shortage, Kennedy said NSCC has put out the call to their alumni, asking those who have spare rooms to consider renting to an NSCC student.

“It really is a wonderful opportunity to welcome people who are here, dedicated to make themselves better.”

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NSCC has also partnered with the provincial government to build new residences at three campuses in the coming years, two in Dartmouth and one in Pictou.

Kennedy anticipates those facilities will be ready in 2024 and 2025.

KSU’s Victoria Gibbs said NSCC had, like King’s, reached out to the community in an effort to accommodate its students.

She said affordability is at the root of the issue.

“It’s extremely concerning… People in Halifax who don’t have access to housing in general, and are struggling to find it, they’re not the ones that can afford these new apartment buildings that are popping up.”

Read more: Nova Scotia announces loan program for non-profits to purchase housing

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Gibbs said the King’s housing team is pleading anyone in Halifax who can help out, to do so.

“Anybody, if there’s alumni, community members, people that live in and around the HRM that might have a basement apartment or a spare room with the ability to rent it to students,” she said.

“I promise you, we are a small school with a close-knit community. Our students are amazing and respectful… Please reach out to us and we will see if we can make it work.”

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