Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

People walk past Whitney Hall, a residence at the University of Toronto's St. George campus on July 28, 2020. Canada's universities are under growing scrutiny for their role in exacerbating the housing crisis.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Postsecondary schools in Canada’s largest markets will add around 18,000 new beds in the coming years, a figure that is swamped by the sheer number of students trying to access housing.

As Canada struggles with a prolonged housing crisis, recent attention has focused on colleges and universities, which have jacked up enrolments of high-paying international students who need rental units. The federal government said this week it would consider capping the number of student visas it approves.

In 22 major markets in Canada, purpose-built student accommodation covers just 12 per cent of the student population, according to a report published earlier this year by market researchers Bonard. They also said that around 10,000 beds were under construction, with roughly 8,000 more in development.

These incoming beds would boost student residence space by 12 per cent.

“This won’t be nearly sufficient to meet the demand of 1.5 million student renters,” economists at Desjardins Securities said this week in a report.

While Canadian schools are not obligated to provide beds to their students, they’ve come under scrutiny for their role in exacerbating the housing crisis. The postsecondary sector increasingly relies on foreign students – who pay several times more than their domestic peers for tuition – to bolster their revenues. This has led to an influx of international students, with study visas climbing 194 per cent over the decade to 2022.

How Canada’s foreign-student boom is creating a host of problems

By and large, those students are left to compete with the broader population for vacant units, which are already in short supply in many markets.

“Students typically look for budget accommodation, thus displacing lower‑income tenants in the off‑campus rental housing market,” the Desjardins report said.

Decoder is a weekly feature that unpacks an important economic chart.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe