International students face housing crisis

Lack of adequate, affordable housing in Winnipeg

Even with a roommate, Suhani Priya, a second-year international student, is dealing with the costs that come with housing near the U of M. This is a growing reality for many, especially for international students who rely on family back home for financial support.

Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Winnipeg around the University of Manitoba reaches a low of $1,200 according to one rental website. On top of utilities and other bills, this is becoming increasingly difficult to pay.

International students who are looking for a cheaper place often have to look farther away from the university. For students like Priya, this is a problem. A long commute to campus “costs [students] their time,” she said.

After moving out of the U of M residence, Priya faced many difficulties finding housing. Finding affordable rent was a major issue all around campus.

Interpreting property images online is another hurdle for international students who try to find apartments before they even book their flight to Winnipeg. Students may see photos of places from when they were originally built, but later find that landlords omit the wear that has accumulated over time.

Priya is once again looking for a new place to live, and she is noticing ads that ask specifically for Indian girls, or girls only. She said this is a concern for men and people of other nationalities who may be seeking housing, but are unable to find any.

UMSU president Tracy Karuhogo highlighted how housing scams and discriminatory landlords frequently target international students. Some of these scams occur when students look for housing before they arrive in Canada. Students may be asked to pay a security deposit before coming to the country only to find that the housing never existed, or that the owner was not who they had paid.

Karuhogo herself faced discrimination while looking for stable housing. She said during her search, landlords told her that she did not “look like [she] could afford the place.” She said that other international students get this treatment too.

Karuhogo said that landlords take advantage of international students by allowing them to live in a place that is not up to living standards.

UMSU and the International Centre urge international students to arrive in Canada before securing a place to live in order to avoid scams. Karuhogo said the UMSU legal protection program is available for any student who may need legal advice, free of charge.

Karuhogo said UMSU talked with the administration, and that administration agreed that the university needs funding to create residences for students and “student-oriented housing.” According to Karuhogo, that funding would need to come from the government.

In interviews with the Manitoban, leaders of Manitoba’s Green, Liberal and New Democratic parties agreed that the housing crisis facing students needs to be addressed.

The Manitoban contacted the office of Manitoba Premier and leader of the Progressive Conservative party Heather Stefanson for an interview, but received no response.

Dougald Lamont, leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party, said, “there are way too many loopholes that allow landlords to just hike rent.”

Wab Kinew, leader of the Manitoba New Democratic Party, also said that he sees rent as an issue for university students in Manitoba.

Kinew said that, should his party win the upcoming election, they would look at renters tax cuts and “housing stock” as possible solutions.

Janine Gibson, leader of the Green Party of Manitoba said that “[relying] on the private sector to support our international students is just not working.”

She said that providing housing for international students that is “reasonable financially and [meets] space requirements” needs to be supported by the government.