Calgary international student unable to find home amid city-wide rental shortage

With the housing market in a squeeze, some U of C students are struggling to find a place to live.

By Alejandro Melgar and Tiffany Goodwein

An international student from Bangladesh is struggling to find a place to live in Calgary, amid the city’s red hot rental market.

Rajdeep Das was accepted to the University of Calgary’s (U Calgary) engineering program, but without a place to rent, there’s a chance he may not be able to study in Canada at all.

He has been trying to find a place to stay at U Calgary residence, but they are currently at full capacity.

“For us international students, we haven’t landed in Calgary yet. So for us, it is impossible to get a credit report. When [landlords] ask for that, they ask for advances, like 6-7 months,” Das said. “They should be a bit cooperative with their tenants.”

Das has said that some landlords have asked from anywhere between six months to a year of rent in advance in lieu of Canadian credit, which he calls “absurd.” However, he is willing to offer that much of an advance if it means it will get him a place to live.

“People are facing quite a lot of difficulties in paying our tuition fees, but we are trying to do our best,” Das said.

“I just want a roof above my head when I come over.”

In addition to trying to afford paying rent in advance, Das adds the disparity in language and price make it hard for him to know how to navigate the rental market.

“There should be clear communication between tenants and the owners, it’s really hard for us to understand the culture of Calgary,” Das said.

“I wish and hope that everyone who is looking for a house gets there.”


Nicole Schmidt with the U Calgary Students’ Union says it has been difficult for new students, as there are 550 people and counting on the residence waitlist.

The Union appealed to Calgary City Council for support, and recently got help from SAIT Residence to house students. However, the agreement with SAIT ended recently, as residence there is also filling up.

“This is a very challenging situation obviously, with residences being full in addition to the vacancy rate being so low. This is unfortunately a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances for students,” Schmidt said.

“Our focus is doing all that we can in light of these circumstances to actually connect students with places to live for the fall semester, because we want students to have access to somewhere that’s safe, and somewhere that’s affordable, and somewhere that’s accessible for them to live,” Schmidt told CityNews.

The Students’ Union has also set up a board posting to connect students and landlords with one another. Schmidt says that they have seen students and landlords connecting to find space.

Schmidt is also encouraging Calgarians to take in students as best they can, with the board filling up with postings and requests.

“Calgarians have really come through, and I really want to thank them for that,” Schmidt said.

“Two weeks ago our housing board had 39 total postings, and as of this morning we are up to 116, which is fantastic. However, there is still a housing shortage for students.”

Calgary rental market is very competitive

With the vacancy rates in the city being so low, people are desperate to find a home, and end up offering higher rent or advances to secure a place to live.

Aminda Galappaththi, vice-president of portfolio management at Calgary Housing Company and the acting president, says rental prices across the city are higher than normal, and rates are creating issues for families and students alike.

According to a report, Calgary recorded an average rental price of $1,752 per month in June 2022, which is an increase of 26 per cent from the last year.

“As housing prices go up, there’s more and more households finding themselves in housing vulnerability, and food scarcity situations,” Galappaththi said.

“So as rental rates increase, and as the market gets hotter, it puts more and more people in housing affordability need, and increases that gap for people who are already struggling with housing affordability and food scarcity issues.”

Romania Leo, the owner of Real Property Management Ace, says people negotiating rental prices or paying more than the listed price, is happening frequently.

“Outbidding in any real estate market, whether it’s sale or rental, is when there’s a lack of inventory, and it’s just really high in terms of demand,” Leo said.

“What’s happening now is the good areas, for example, primarily inner city downtown, they’re the ones where people want larger spaces for many factors.”

Leo recommends people understand the area they want to rent from, and have a strong budget set up. And if they don’t have the money to outbid, then she recommends they don’t, as it may make it hard to sustain the rental price going forward.

“Know your budget, and [when] you see a good property, you pretty much have to just get on it. Don’t even wait for it, you just have to create an impression with the landlord or the property manager. That’s probably the most important,” Leo said.

“I will select the tenant that we feel is better long term wise [than] what the specific situation was for the rental, because that’s what landlords are looking for. Whether they outbid or not, it’s just a temporary short term bubble.”

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