Between September 2016 and January 2017, CUSA partnered with the Carleton Centre for Community Innovation (3ci) to conduct a survey of Carleton University students about the nature, availability and affordability of student housing in Ottawa. Nearly 600 students responded.
Among the key findings of the survey, housing cost, proximity to Carleton and housing satisfaction emerged as potential problem areas for students. Almost one-fifth of students reported that their current housing situation falls below their needs. Nearly a third of respondents reported that it takes them more than 30 minutes by public transit to get to Carleton for their studies. The most critical findings pertain to rent: over 70% of respondents indicated that they pay rent, with the average student paying individually $612.28 per month, which may or may not include utilities. For students who rent, over half receive family assistance to pay rent. Family assistance and student loans constituted the top two means by which students are primarily paying rent. In optional comments, students shared their struggles to afford the cost of housing: “I share a 1 bedroom apartment with my roommate. It’s expensive by myself;” “[It is] difficult to pay rent every month;” “Carleton residence fees are way too high.”
Survey administrators say the findings speak to the issue of affordable student housing in Ottawa. “While Carleton students are, on average, paying below-market rates for housing in Ottawa, the survey suggests there may be a greater need for affordable student housing in Ottawa than universities and developers currently appreciate,” says Brittany Stares, a Graduate Research Assistant with 3ci. For instance, the number of new private student residences, such as 1Eleven and Envie, is growing; however, the survey suggests there is a sizeable portion of the student population for whom these developments – the rents at which surpass and can even double the average paid by survey respondents – are prohibitively expensive. Even Carleton’s own student residence posed affordability challenges: nearly three-quarters (73.8%) of respondents bypassed Carleton student residence entirely in their search for housing for the current academic year, and among respondents that applied but chose to live elsewhere, the primary reason cited was “residence fees were too expensive.”
Also concerning to researchers is the fact that students are relying on unsustainable sources to pay rent, especially family assistance and student loans. “While students typically have some trade-off between income and their studies while at school, their dependence on family assistance, student loans and personal savings to pay rent could expose them to housing insecurity once these streams are exhausted, especially in today’s unstable job market,” says Brittany.
The full results of the survey will be posted on the 3ci website. For any questions on the survey, please contact Brittany Stares, 3ci Graduate Research Assistant, at firstname.lastname@example.org.