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Students Turn To Homeless Shelters As Toronto Rents Soar

Mark Aston has interacted with hundreds of teenagers, students, and young adults at the juvenile homeless shelter he oversees. Still, he will never forget the first time a mechanical engineering student from Toronto Metropolitan University stepped through his doors in 2019.

She had no choice but to seek assistance at the shelter because she could not return home after a family breakdown and lacked the funds to maintain herself in Toronto’s skyrocketing housing market.

Aston says he was stunned to see someone with that much instability and turmoil in their life and yet continue to perform and manage a high-demand course.

About 26 per cent of people living in Covenant House Toronto, the shelter where Aston works, were students, with 50 per cent attending college or a university in 2019.

Today, Aston anticipates that the number of students is closer to one-third and may increase if rents rise. The affordability concerns with rental housing in Toronto reflect this pattern.

According to information gathered from the U.S. Census Bureau and the yearly Rental Market Report by Canada’s Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the rental markets in Toronto and Vancouver are among the tightest of North America’s major metropolises.

The vacancy rates among the condominiums that have recently made up the majority of the new rental supply in Canadian cities are as low as 0.8 per cent in Vancouver and 1.6 per cent in Toronto.

Rents for one-bedroom apartments have climbed by 20 per cent since last year, with monthly expenses in Greater Toronto now averaging $2,269, partly due to a lack of supply. Moreover, there is now more demand for homes in city centres because of the lifting of COVID-19 regulations.

In addition, rents are under increasing pressure due to rising mortgage rates, which put many would-be homebuyers out of the market. John Tory, the mayor of Toronto, is seeking re-election on a promise of housing affordability, but building new stock will take time.

Aled ab Iorwerth, the deputy chief economist at the CMHC, claimed that an additional 3.5 million housing units must be constructed across the country for renters to live in Canada.

In the context of students, perhaps there is a need for more on-campus student accommodation, he said, adding that we need more supply, more diversity, and faster supply development.

Canadian undergraduate students pay, on average, $6,693 in tuition, which is far less than the cost in the United States. However, housing fees can add another $13,000 to $22,000 to the cost of attendance each year, and most institutions only provide accommodation to first-year students.

Students in higher education are most susceptible to changes in housing costs, particularly those from lower-income families or without strong family ties. As a result, many students struggle to find affordable housing while still paying for food, transportation, and tuition. At the same time, students work entry-level, minimum-wage jobs.

Source: Financial Post

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