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Op-ed: Unaffordable rental housing may negatively impact our in-person return

The cost of rental housing is rising, and more rental units are needed
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FIONA TUNG/THE VARSITY
FIONA TUNG/THE VARSITY

In response to the University of Toronto resuming in-person classes, students throughout the country and the world are taking steps to travel to Toronto. Upon returning to Toronto, many are faced with the need to find suitable housing. 

Many students want a place close to campus so they can walk to classes, have access to transit, and have a variety of amenities nearby. The decision of where to live is essential for students since they will spend most of their time in that area. This is especially true during the pandemic when some COVID-19 restrictions are still in place and some classes are still happening online. 

Although the challenge for many students is the costs of housing in Toronto, the competitiveness that comes with a large population of students returning to in-person classes is another significant hurdle to finding accommodation.

In Toronto’s current real estate market, with the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment starting at $2,495, many students are forced to look for roommates and live with students from other universities. It is challenging to live by yourself and purchase healthy meals, all while managing to retain an income for other expenses.

Moreover, during the pandemic, many students may have had trouble establishing friendships due to virtual learning. Therefore, many students have likely needed to turn to social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Discord to find roommates. Luckily, students can join Facebook groups specific to their campus to search for housing and roommates from the same campus. They can also join other university housing groups to arrange to live with students from other universities.

UTSG is located in downtown Toronto, which is more expensive to reside in than other places due to popularity, access to services, and proximity to the city centre. By purchasing housing further from the university, students can find large spaces but, as a result, have to commute longer to get to school. 

Similarly, areas surrounding the downtown core are full of single-family homes. This has caused many students to take part in multi-tenant housing. This type of housing is illegal in several  parts of the city, and the presidents of many Toronto universities are advocating reforms to this policy. 

Multi-tenant housing has its positives and negatives, but overall, it helps reduce the unaffordable housing crisis as it adds more housing supply to the market and allows students to find a home within their budget. Most students cannot afford to rent their own apartments. This type of housing can enable many of them to turn to room housing for a short period of time and have more roommates, which can assist in paying the overall rent for a single-family home. 

Some studies have found that the population around the downtown core is decreasing in various Toronto neighbourhoods. These neighbourhoods were predominantly built with single-family houses. The number of children in a family are declining, and the houses are becoming too large and expensive for small families. Additionally, many children have left those neighbourhoods, resulting in the presence of empty nest homes. 

Hence, future housing development should focus on creating dense communities that include different types of housing. As a result, students would be able to find housing that fits their budget and could have more choice in deciding what type of residence they would like to live in. 

New housing developments that meet the rental housing market in Toronto could take several years to develop, but in the meantime, students can search for rental housing through various rental housing website services. Renter housing services are dedicated to helping individuals stay within their budget, while offering them a wide variety of housing options to consider. If you have roommates you would like to live with, you can use these services to help find a place to reside within the city. 

While this strategy may not be as common today as it used to be, students can also look for flyers at religious facilities or community centers with information about different housing advertisements available in the region. This option is ideal if you have a particular community in mind that you would like to live in. 

It is not easy to find housing, but it is a component of your everyday life. It is vital that you find a space to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It may be difficult to find roommates and live a movie life university experience in the wake of the pandemic. The good news is that now that since students  are returning to in-person learning, you have the opportunity to form friendships and find individuals with whom you may discuss future rental housing arrangements. 

Anika Munir is a third-year public policy, city studies, and public law student at UTSC. She is the director of human geography on the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union and the co-president of the Geography and City Studies Student Association.