Western students looking for apartment rentals for the next academic year say they’re struggling to find options for less than $1,000 a month without having to resort to living in cramped and dirty conditions, or in far-flung locales away from campus.
December and January is typically the time post-secondary students start looking for a place to live for the next school year and, with fierce competition over a relatively small number units, many say they regret not starting sooner.
“My brother and I have to pay just over $2,000 [a month],” said Alec Choi, a Western student who lives with his brother, Alden in a two-bedroom apartment located in what he described as a poorly maintained, bug-infested building on Richmond Street, north of St. Joseph’s Healthcare London.
“Apparently [our rate] is one of the lowest in the building.”
Experience not unusual
The brothers’ experience isn’t unusual for a rental market that’s quickly become increasingly unaffordable for many. In 2020, Statistics Canada said it took 139 hours of work for a single-earner to comfortably pay the rent for a two-bedroom unit. As of 2021, which are the latest numbers available, it was 154.
For some students who work and study full-time, it means sacrificing their studies to spend more time on the job just to make ends meet. For others, like Matthias Tsoi, it means moving to a new building each year to find the best deal. He said this year is his last and he’s splurging, paying $2,600 a month for a two-bedroom.
“I feel as though in London there isn’t very good support for students in terms of housing,” he said.
Western student Julia Iantorno said she had to settle on an apartment with after her search for something more affordable didn’t bear fruit.
“I’m [paying] over $1,000 for just being in old North, which is like insane,” she said. “It was really, really, really hard to find something that was under $1,000.”
Iantorno said a lot of her peers are still looking without success. It’s why many students will use every advantage they can in a cutthroat market.
“A lot of landlords look at girl groups versus boys groups just cause [they think] we’re cleaner or whatever,” said Stefania Taylor, who believes that simply being female gave her an advantage over her male peers.
Good apartments go quickly, something Sheila Bull, a first-year student about to spend live outside residence for the first time next fall, learned the hard way.
20 minutes after we left [the rental], other people signed for it.– Sheila Bull, first-year Western student
“We told the dude that we were interested in the rental. He said 20 minutes after we left, other people signed for it.”
Bull said she’s looked options with monthly rents of $700 to $800 on the low end. Cheaper than most, but also located so far from campus that a lengthy bus ride is necessary just to get to class.
“I don’t really understand how people that didn’t have support from their parents would be able to afford that, because I wouldn’t,” she said.
Support for students is available from the university, Western’s director of housing Chris Lengyell told CBC News in an email Friday. It includes directing students to available units, and reviewing leases with students.
Lengyell said students who have yet to find housing should be persistent and said a number of listings are still expected to hit the market after March 1, when students planning to leave their current accommodations typically give their landlords notice.
As of Friday, there were more than 300 rental listings available on the housing services website.