November 22, 2023

Building a Better Future: Colleges and Institutes’ Role in Student Housing

Student housing in Canada is in a crisis. Rent is increasing, affordable housing options are dwindling, and colleges and institutes are bursting with students striving to learn and make a positive impact on our economy. The result is that many students live in inadequate, unaffordable, or ill-suited places for their needs. These less-than-ideal living situations can affect not only a student’s academic performance but also their overall health and well-being (source, 2019). And it’s no secret that this crisis, like so many others, disproportionately affects equity-deserving groups, exacerbating existing inequalities and hindering their access to quality education and, thus, meaningful career opportunities.     

Fortunately, colleges and institutes recognize that safe, accessible, and affordable student housing isn’t just nice to have – it’s a must for delivering inclusive, quality education. It is the primary impetus for why we’re rolling up our sleeves and diving headfirst into establishing new partnerships and implementing innovative, practical solutions to fast-track the development, approvals, and construction of new student accommodations. For example: 

  • Cegep de Rivière-du-Loup is collaborating with the Kamourask School Commission on a student residence project and has developed a directory which contains all the housing offers available to students.   
  • Niagara College is tripling its on-campus housing as part of its new master plan, which also includes renovations and improvements for the existing on-campus residences. 
  • Humber College, Loyalist College, and Georgian College have all formed partnerships to connect students who need affordable living spaces with older adults with available space. 
  • Vancouver Community College plans to redevelop its East Vancouver property to include a new educational space and a series of residential towers of up to 25 storeys that could include more than 3,300 homes. 
  • Conestoga College is using revenue from international student tuition fees to build, buy, lease or renovate buildings in the Kitchener region for its students. The college recently purchased a 12-storey building in downtown Kitchener to use as a student residence and bought a five-story building just blocks from the college’s Waterloo campus. 
  • Selkirk College has launched a student housing project to build a 112-bed project on the Castlegar Campus and a 36-unit project on Nelson’s Silver King Campus to result in better learner outcomes and strengthened communities. 

And our role doesn’t stop at student housing solutions; we are also addressing labour shortages in the very industries responsible for building the housing people in Canada need, offering a diverse range of hands-on learning experiences and specialized programs in the trades. Our comprehensive array of over 300 pre-apprenticeship programs is helping the next generation of trades workers gain practical skills and experience in fields like carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, and more. Of these, 80 programs are designed to support traditionally underrepresented groups, including women and Indigenous communities. For example, Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s School of Continuing Education Indigenous Strategy has partnered with the Joseph A. Remai School of Construction to deliver Green Building Awareness training to Indigenous people.    

Even more noteworthy is that these programs are creating a positive impact even before students earn their diplomas. Take, for example, the innovative partnership between Mohawk College and CityHousing Hamilton (CHH). In this collaboration, sixty-three students from the Construction Engineering Technician – Building Renovation program at Mohawk College are gaining valuable work-integrated learning experience as they complete a 112-hour service-learning project that is helping to provide affordable housing units for people who live and work in Hamilton’s diverse community. There is also Holland College, which has partnered with the Government of Prince Edward Island and the Construction Association of PEI to engage students from Carpentry, Construction, Electrical, and Plumbing programs to create 32 tiny homes for Islanders on the social housing registry.  

Yet, despite this remarkable work, the reality remains that the housing crisis extends beyond the immediate student population, shaped by a multitude of factors that lie beyond the control of colleges and institutes. It’s why we’re advocating for a holistic approach to addressing student housing needs as an integral part of the comprehensive response to Canada’s overarching housing crisis. We recommend the Government invest $2.6 billion over three years to establish a new Student Housing Loan and Grant Program, which will provide the financial support to help colleges and institutes build 40,000 student beds across the country. We also recommend that the government work to ensure students’ unique housing needs are reflected in federal housing policies, data collection, and programs. 

You can learn more about our recommendations in our statement published on National Housing Day.