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‘Dire situation’ for students waiting for housing, says president of U of C students’ union

School orientation begins at SAIT Polytechnic, Bow Valley College and the University of Calgary next week, but many students set to study in Calgary are still waiting to secure housing for the fall semester.

The president of the University of Calgary Students’ Union says there were about 500 students still on the wait-list.

In Late July, the U of C confirmed to CBC News that its 10 residential complexes were full because of higher than normal demand.

“Time is definitely running out. So this I think is going to become more of a dire situation the closer we get to the first week of classes,” said Nicole Schmidt.

University of Calgary Students’ Union president Nicole Schmidt is hoping some Calgarians will take in student renters to address the need for housing. (Bryan Labby/CBC)

This weekend, the U of C will move-in more than 3,000 students to residences on campus, including a record 1,200 first-year students, according to the school.

Given high demand, the post-secondary said in a statement it expanded the number of housing units available to students — but despite that, the wait-list remains. 

This week, school administration put together an emergency housing plan for those who may need it, says Schmidt. Students can contact the students’ union or school administration to access that.

Campuses report varied availability

In June, the students’ union worked with Places4Students.com — a website that works with 148 campuses in Canada to post rental listings for students — to make it free for landlord to post listings for three months.

Mark Taylor is the director of accounts for the platform, which includes listings for the University of Calgary, Mount Royal University, SAIT and Bow Valley College. He says making it free for landlords has helped to bring up the number of posting in Calgary, which were “down in the teens.”

“The traffic on our website is up 50 per cent from normal, from what it would have been two or three years ago,” he said. “Which indicates there’s lots of students needing help to find a place.”

He says typically about half of that traffic is from international students searching for an affordable place to rent.

Taylor says that across the country the website is showing less rentals being posted, compared with 2020 and 2021.

He suspects the tight rental market nationwide and returning student enrolments at universities across Canada are to blame.

“I would say that it’s been a bit of a perfect storm,” he said.

The U of C students’ president says that despite some success by partnering with the listing platform, the need remains.

“We’ve really been imploring Calgarians, if they have an extra room or an extra suite that would be available to a student, to please consider renting it out,” Schmidt said.

On Friday, Mount Royal University said in a statement it is “still receiving residence applications.”

“Until capacity is met, we’re happy to accommodate and prioritize MRU students who need a place for the upcoming year,” the statement said.

MRU noted that students from the University of Calgary without housing can reach out to residence services to “discuss availability.”

On Friday, SAIT stated that its residences were almost at capacity and “this is expected given the time of year.”

SAIT noted that capacity for international students remains.

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