The dorms are full and students have nowhere to go

You’ve got your textbooks, LED light strips, and a fern that you’re definitely going to take care of this time, but if you’re heading back to college or university this week, there may be one small thing you’re missing: somewhere to live.

Driving the news: Soaring rents and a shortage of on-campus residences are making it virtually impossible for many of the country’s 1.5 million post-secondary students to secure housing before classes begin this week.

  • First-year students are typically guaranteed a spot in residence, but some universities and colleges are now running out of beds.
  • Students living off-campus are digging deep into their wallets for the privilege: last year the median student rent was $1,250 (jumping to $1,800 in expensive markets like Toronto and Vancouver), according to a report from a non-profit housing advocacy group.

Why it’s happening: It’s not just rising rents pricing students out of the market. Canadian universities are also accepting significantly more international students, driving up the demand for rental housing near campuses.

  • The number of study permits for international students has more than doubled in the past 10 years, up to 621,000 total last year.
  • Post-secondary institutions have good reason to accept more international students, who pay on average $33,000 of tuition per year versus just $6,600 paid by domestic undergrads.
  • And while some schools have started building more residences to accommodate the enrollment surge, the pace of new construction is not likely to keep up with growing demand. 

Bottom line: The on-campus housing shortage is another failure to plan for growth—in this case, of post-secondary students—that’s led to excessive demand in the rental housing market and higher prices for everyone.