The University of Toronto has announced its plans to return to in person classes, and students must now seek to manage their work-life balance, maintain their grades and relationships, and find jobs in a changing environment. The worry about whether they will be able to pay rent can be a major stressor for students in a time of uncertainty.

The pandemic caused a decline in rent prices as many schools and jobs switched to an online format. With lower demand for housing, landlords were forced to lower prices, and even provide incentives for some renters, in order to find eligible tenants in the past year. 

Reports show rent decreased during pandemic

The Toronto GTA April Rent Report 2021 showed that the average annual cost of rent was down 19 per cent in 2021, and noted that condo apartments were affected the most. Condo prices fell by 17 per cent, from an average monthly price of $2,480 per unit in the first quarter of 2020 to $2,047 in the first quarter of 2021. Other types of housing structures such as townhomes saw similar declines during this period. 

According to the report, the market is considered to have hit its bottom in February, as a gradual increase in prices started in March. As schools and workplaces begin to reopen and the demand for rental properties rise, the rent prices have been rising too. The average rent price per square foot has increased by 2.2 per cent since January and the average rent prices for different property types have shown a general increase since the start of the second quarter of 2021. 

U of T’s response to rising rent prices

In an email to The Varsity, Arlene Clement, the director of housing and TCard services for U of T, reported that prices for off-campus housing are rising. Despite some students being able to receive lower prices and even additional incentives by landlords during last year, there remains a lack of affordable housing. Furthermore, with the number of vacancies across the city, it is likely that when the market becomes more competitive, prices will continue to climb.

There is good news for students looking to find housing. “Rates, at this point, are not rising above what they were in 2020, pre-pandemic,” Arlene wrote to The Varsity. Additionally, with more available units and similar rent prices, students may find it easier to find housing. 

The university also offers assistance for students looking for housing options. Arlene described campus residences as “a wonderful way for students to integrate into on-campus life.” 

The university also has services for students looking for off-campus housing. The off-campus housing website offers a variety of resources for students, including a registry of rental ads for housing located near all three U of T campuses and an off-campus roommate finder program. Arlene explained in an email to The Varsity that the off-campus housing team also provides other services, such as a virtual housing fair, workshops, and one-on-one appointments to provide students with support. 

Arlene’s main piece of advice for students looking for a place to rent was to be prepared and knowledgeable about their rights as a tenant and to have all required documentation before starting their housing search. 

How rent prices are affecting students

In an interview with The Varsity, Dario Tao, a third-year finance and economics specialist in Rotman Commerce, said that since students tend to only need smaller apartments or houses, he was still able to find options that were “quite affordable.” He also mentioned that prices were rising back to what they were in previous years. 

Tao talked about using resources from U of T’s off-campus housing website to help him find housing. He said that the website was easily accessible and helpful. He suggested one minor improvement to the website — it would be useful, he said, if it also spread some of its resources through social media so even more people could access them.