Students struggling to find affordable rental options as school year approaches

"It’s a bit stressful because it’s like two weeks left,” says Pablo Balaguer Lopez, from Spain, who is among many students struggling to find affordable rental units and is still without a place before school begins. Alyssia Rubertucci reports.

University students are feeling the housing crunch, with many saying they have nowhere to stay as the start of the school year looms.

The shortage of affordable rental units is making things difficult for students like Pablo Balaguer López, from Spain.

“Maybe I go to Montreal and I don’t even have a location… it’s a bit stressful because it’s like two weeks left,” said López.

“I’m actually looking for like six months stay, you know, like until February. But like most of the people that I have talked with, they were like, ‘you’re going to stay at least one year. I cannot rent to you my room.’

“I tried to look for something before in July, but like there wasn’t any room. So I just started doing it first at the middle of August. So I was out luck, so I’m still doing it, talking with tons of people. They don’t reply.”

López says he spends around five hours a day on Facebook, and like many, is constantly writing ads to sell himself. He tells prospective landlords and roommates that he is responsible, meets deadlines, and respects others.

Pablo Balaguer López’s Facebook post looking for housing. (Credit: Facebook/screengrab)

“I have problems with people from Spain that were supposed to be like me,” he said. “So you imagine when I’m living with people that doesn’t have the same culture as me, so it can be sort of hard. So you need to describe yourself really, really, really good.”

Despite the difficulties, López is confident he’ll ultimately find a place soon.

“At the end, I’ll find it,” he said. “But I have to suffer first.”


López is far from the only one having that experience.

Ontario’s Sarah Gao, a recent graduate, is also looking for housing. She agrees that properly writing about yourself can make things easier.

“I just posted yesterday with like my bio and everything because it’s been hard finding places like just on their own,” said Gao. “So I figured with the bio then at least people can see if they want to, you know, come to me. And I’ve been getting a lot more messages since then.”

Sarah Gao’s Facebook post looking for housing. (Credit: Facebook/screengrab)

But that hasn’t translated into success for Gao just yet.

“It’ll just be a big time crunch the next couple of weeks,” she said. “I’m just going to be looking for places, looking for roommates, seeing what fits or doesn’t fit… calling people, meeting people.”

In Montreal’s downtown McGill Ghetto for instance – right by the university campus – a one-bedroom apartment can cost, on average, more than $1,000 a month.

“People are having to compete with each other to try to access limited housing stock,” explained Laurent Levesque, the executive director and co-founder of non-profit UTILE. “We’ve seen people making proposals and trying to sell themselves to landlords. We’ve also seen in some cases bidding wars for rents, which is obviously contributing to rent inflation.

“We’ve seen rents paid by students increase by on average about 20 per cent in the last four years, which is obviously a much larger increase in student incomes. And this translates to very high rents, especially in inner-city boroughs, close to campuses where the competition is the fiercest.”

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