Hundreds of post-secondary students in Calgary on waitlists for on-campus housing

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Hundreds of post-secondary students in Calgary on wait lists for on-campus housing
WATCH: Weeks ahead of move-in day, there are hundreds of students scrambling to find housing in Calgary for the upcoming school year. As Adam MacVicar reports, the rental market is playing a significant role in the rise in students on wait lists. – Aug 8, 2023

With a few short weeks left to go before the upcoming semester, there are hundreds of students waiting for on-campus housing at Calgary’s post-secondary institutions.

There are 740 students on a waitlist for on-campus housing at the University of Calgary, with 100 students waiting at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT).

Mount Royal University has 50 students on a waitlist for housing which is an “unprecedented” situation according to the university’s director of residence services.

Mark Keller told reporters Tuesday it’s the first time the school has had to put together a waitlist for on-campus housing.

“I think the main driving factor is the rental market in Calgary. I think a lot of students who would be looking to live off-campus are finding it harder to find accommodations off-campus, particularly affordable accommodations,” Keller said.

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“We’re seeing the normal number of students looking for on-campus housing as well as a higher number who maybe hadn’t considered it initially and are looking to us as a reasonable accommodation.”

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the current vacancy rate for rentals in Calgary sits at 2.6 per cent.

In a statement to Global News, the University of Calgary said it is working to help students find off-campus accommodations through its off-campus housing website, which “provides resources available to students looking for housing accommodations.”

“We have also placed ads in community newsletters which will be distributed this month with the goal of informing Calgarians of the housing shortage impacting our students and an appeal asking people to consider renting out spare bedrooms,” the university’s statement said.

“These ads should reach over 78,000 Calgarians. We will also be running social media ads in the upcoming weeks.”

The University of Calgary added it is conducting an analysis of long-term student housing demands to help “inform future housing requirements.”

“Students have been at a breaking point,” UCalgary Student Union president, Shaziah Jinnah Morsette, told Global News. “Broken down by all the things that have been weighing down on them over these years, especially if you’re a new student just starting, this is a very costly reality now to be a student.”

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The Students’ Union (SU) is also asking Calgarians to consider renting to students, whether it be a spare room, basement suite, apartment, or laneway house.

It is also offering free posting for landlords on a student rental website until the end of August to help connect students to potential renters.

“We tripled the listings that are posted on there, which is amazing, and we have a really heartfelt thank you to the Calgarians who considered opening their homes up to students,” Morsette said.

UCalgary’s student union is also issuing a call for the Calgary city council to approve all the recommendations from its Housing Affordability Task Force.

Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott said those recommendations will be included in the upcoming refresh of the city’s Corporate Affordable Housing Strategy coming to a city committee on Sept. 14.

“The most important thing that we have the power to do right now is to enable diverse housing across the city. We’re talking different types of houses, all different shapes and sizes,” Walcott told Global News.

However, Walcott said the strategy wouldn’t be an immediate solution to Calgary’s rental market crunch, as it will take years to build out housing to the scale of need.

“Students often live at the edges of the city so that they can simply afford to be here, and they’ll bear the cost of transportation because they can at least divert that to a later point,” Walcott said.

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“I want them to be able to live a high-quality life near those institutions, near the amenities, instead of having to drive as far as they can just to make sure they have a roof over their head.”

Calgarians are encouraged to attend the Sept 14. committee meeting and have their say on the strategy.

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