The reality of student rent and life in the GTA

Published On March 19, 2021 | By Klaudia Kryczka | News

Vinaya Annu opens the door to her apartment and is immediately in her cramped kitchen — the wafting aroma of her roommate’s cooking filling the room.

“The open concept kitchen and living room are not very spacious,” she said. “[It] feels a bit congested.”

Annu is the fifth student to sign a lease in a two-bedroom condo on Dundas Street West at Aukland Road in Mississauga.

Vinaya Annu sits in the living room, her laptop in her lap as she tries to do her schoolwork after an exhausting workday.
Vinaya Annu sits in the living room, her laptop in her lap as she tries to do her schoolwork after an exhausting workday. Photo credit: Vinaya Annu

According to the rentals.ca national rent report, the average price for a condo apartment in February were down 18.1 per cent compared to data from 2020.

The median rent in February 2021 fell to $1,962 from $2,395 in February 2020.

However, Ontario has the second-highest rental price average in Canada — right behind British Columbia — averaging $1,919 a month for all property types.

Split between five students in this tiny living space, Annu pays $500 a month for rent.

“The rent is not very high as it includes all the utilities and condo facilities too,” she said. “Unfortunately, we are unable to use them due to COVID.”

Despite these declining rental prices, it does not stop students like Annu and her roommates from cramming into one tiny living space.

Annu said three people live in the master bedroom, where the walk-in closet serves as an additional bed space.

“The other bedroom is a bit smaller, and two people can stay comfortably,” she said.

Annu is content with her current living situation but can’t help and feel a lack of privacy because of the number of people sharing the apartment.

“I feel having a private space is beneficial for me, as I would tend to be more focused and organized,” she said.

Vinaya Annu sits on the floor in her small bedroom and talks to her roommate
Vinaya Annu sits on the floor in her small bedroom of an apartment she shares with four other students. Photo credit: Vinaya Annu

Mindy Kahlon, a sales representative at Re/Max Aboutowne Realty Corp and Brokerage in Oakville, says students don’t have a choice but to live with roommates and friends.

“Students are renters and in Ontario, landlords are allowed to request proof from their potential tenants on how they expect to pay rent and what their general credit and fiscal reliability looks like,” Kahlon said.

Unfortunately, potential student renters do not have a steady income or proof of a credit report to provide their landlords, she said.

Annu, an international student, had no choice but to work at least 20 hours a week to pay for expenses. But balancing school and work gets a bit hectic, she said.

“It does feel like a burden at times,” Annu said.

Despite the pandemic, she said her rent has remained about the same, even though some amenities are off-limits.

Kahlon realizes the pandemic has changed the way student housing will look in the future.

“COVID put a spotlight on student housing, showing the vulnerability of it,” she said. “Much like many other sectors affected by the pandemic, student housing is also dependent on students being in-person full time.

“This will surely be a consideration for many landlords and investors in the future,” Kahlon said.

Although Annu is happy with her current living situation, resulting in a one-year lease extension, she will never forget one terrible apartment fiasco.

“I had a bad experience with my previous landlord who would never send people over to get the repairs done,” she said. “There were times when the heater was not working during the winter season and he took almost a month to get it replaced.”

Annu acknowledges not every student can have a good housing experience like hers.

Even though she has a good rental experience, Annu still feels like the student rent situation is subpar.

“If I were to rate the student rent in the GTA, it would be a six” out of 10, she said. “The main factor affecting this score would be the rental prices.”

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