More than 1,250 first-year students moved into on-campus residences at the University of Calgary on Sunday, a record number of students according to the university.
This year, more than 3,000 students will be living on-campus at the university. More than 1,700 of those students moved in on Sunday, which includes older students.
However, the record numbers highlight a rental affordability issue in Calgary. According to Shane Royal, director of ancillary services at the University of Calgary, over 700 students applied to be on the waitlist for on-campus housing this year.
“We’ve definitely seen an increase in demand for on-campus housing. With the challenges in the local housing market and the price increases that students are seeing, our option becomes a bit more affordable,” Royal told Global News.
“We’ve seen a fairly significant increase in applications to live in residence at the university.”
For some students, living on campus means escaping the stress of finding a rental.
Jillian Taillon is a first-year student at the University of Calgary. She moved into her dorm room on Sunday with her best friend to get the full university experience, even though she has family in the city.
Taillon told Global News it’s nice not to have to look for off-campus housing.
“It definitely helps not having a long commute,” she said. “I can just walk out of my dorm room and get to class.”
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The on-campus residence experience also means Taillon wouldn’t have to worry about food. Many are required to buy a meal plan and eat at the various dining halls around campus.
“I don’t have to buy my own food. Every first year has a meal plan, so I’m all set for that,” she said.
It’s not just students that are struggling to find housing.
Cindy Crosby of Platinum Property Management Group told Global News vacancy rates in Calgary are currently very low and a lot of people are looking for a place to live.
According to data from Zumper, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Calgary is $1,807 a month, a year-over-year increase of 20 per cent.
The median rent for two-bedroom apartments in the city is $2,185 per month, a year-over-year increase of 26 per cent.
Zumper says it analyzes its active inventory to provide real-time data and the rental data for Calgary is updated weekly.
“We have families of four and sometimes even five people trying to apply for a two-bedroom apartment. With housing standards, that’s not necessarily feasible,” Crosby said.
“We have like up to nine people wanting to live (in two- and three-bedroom homes) just so they can attain the affordability that they need to live here.”
Crosby added young students have a harder time finding housing than most because landlords often discriminate against them.
A lot of students apply to homes in the suburbs because living in the inner city is too costly, she said.
“We quite often have groups of students applying to four-bedroom family homes in the suburb areas because they can’t afford the properties that are the closest properties to the universities and downtown areas,” she told Global News.
“They might also be a little bit stigmatized because people don’t want to rent to four or five students. They are stigmatized because they’re young and people worry that they might be partying, which is usually not the case with university students. They’re pretty serious about their education, but it just makes it all the more difficult for them.
“They can’t prove their income. They might not be working. They’re relying on student loans. So it makes it really difficult.”
Royal said the university is looking into working with third-party groups to analyze student demand and project how many students will be enrolling into the University of Calgary in the next 10 years.
The third-party will also help the school understand the various construction projects being developed across Calgary, he said.
All of the information will help the university make informed decisions on how to best support students with housing challenges, he added.
“We know housing is critical to students and to their success and that’s why we see such a demand here. We’re happy to see that most students that were on our waiting list were able to find suitable accommodation and be successful in their studies through that,” Royal said.
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