Canada: students with no housing told to defer

Published 22/12/2022

Cape Breton University in Nova Scotia has warned international students to stay home if they don’t have housing arranged before coming to Canada.

In what’s believed to be a first for the country, CBU announced this month that students planning to come in January 2023 should defer if they don’t have a place to live. Across Canada, both domestic and international students are finding it challenging to secure accommodation in a tight housing market.

The number of international students at CBU has soared in recent years and they now outnumber Canadian students on campus. The school, located in Sydney, Nova Scotia, has more than 5,000 students in total, two-thirds of them international.

“With this growth comes new challenges, including providing affordable housing for the community”

“The Cape Breton region is managing growth for the first time in many decades,” said Gordon MacInnis, the university’s interim president and vice-chancellor, in a statement. “With this growth comes new challenges, including providing affordable housing for the community, which students play an integral role in.”

In another first, the province of Nova Scotia has announced funding for a housing project in Sydney that is likely to benefit international students. It is committing CAN$5 million to build rental units on a former racetrack called Tartan Downs.

“We have an urgent need for more housing options for students across the province and we continue to listen to our post-secondary partners and take action,” said Brian Wong, minister of advanced education.

The project is a joint venture between CBU and the non-profit Urban Neighbourhood Development Association. The university has owned the property for the last three years.

Tartan Downs will see 430 residential units developed. Half of them will be “affordable” accommodation for students and others with modest incomes. CBU hopes construction will begin in 2023, with the first apartment units becoming available in 2024 or 2025.

“This kind of investment has the potential to positively impact the lives of the community for generations to come,” said McInnis.

In addition to the project in Sydney, the province announced $3 million for renovations at the Atlantic School of Theology in Halifax. Housing there is used by students at several post-secondary institutions, including St. Mary’s University and Dalhousie University. The building’s plumbing and brickwork will be updated and the number of beds will increase to 97 from 65.

The apartment vacancy rate in Halifax dropped to just 1 percent in 2021, according to the federal government housing agency, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. A vacancy rate of 3 percent is considered healthy.

“Rental market conditions tightened in 2021, with increased demand for apartments outpacing supply,” said Chris James, senior economics analyst at the organisation.

Nova Scotia is specifically addressing the needs of its students through its housing and homelessness strategy, which was released in October 2021.

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