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Student housing: international students' struggles in Canadian cities

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

Moving to a new country is a life-altering experience, filled with excitement and new opportunities. However, for international students, temporary foreign workers, and new permanent residents arriving in major Canadian cities like Toronto and Montreal, the initial challenges can be overwhelming, particularly when it comes to finding a place to live. The scarcity of affordable housing in these cities, coupled with the absence of Canadian credit history among newcomers, often makes apartment hunting an uphill battle.



Formulaire Canada Immigration
Immigration Canada


A recent report from the Canadian Centre for Housing Rights (CCHR) sheds light on the struggles newcomers face while searching for rental apartments in Canada. These challenges primarily revolve around three key issues:


  • Lack of Canadian Credit History: Many newcomers are refused housing due to their lack of Canadian credit history. Landlords and property managers often require this as a measure of financial responsibility and stability.

  • Need for a Canadian Guarantor: Housing providers frequently request a Canadian guarantor, someone who can vouch for the newcomer's ability to pay rent. Newcomers may not have access to a suitable guarantor, further complicating their rental applications.

  • Discrimination and Bias: While Canada has strict anti-discrimination laws, the CCHR report highlights that discrimination still exists in housing, with higher barriers for certain groups. This bias can result in denial of housing opportunities.

  • Limited Banking Access for Exchange Students: Exchange students, often in Canada for less than six months, encounter difficulties in opening a Canadian bank account. This limitation further complicates their ability to meet the financial criteria set by landlords and property managers.

  • Challenges in Utilities and Services: Without a Canadian bank account, exchange students face difficulties in setting up essential services like Wi-Fi and paying bills for utilities such as hydro and electricity. This limitation reduces their choice of rental options to those that are all-inclusive, further narrowing their housing options and potentially limiting their budget flexibility.


High rental rates in major Canadian cities exacerbate the housing challenges for newcomers. These high rents are among the highest in the country, making it particularly challenging for those who arrive with limited savings and low incomes. In addition to high rents, housing providers often require larger deposits and advance rent payments, citing the absence of a Canadian guarantor, credit history, or employment background as reasons for these demands.It's worth noting that in Quebec, although it is forbidden by law, it is still common for landlords to ask for more than the first month's rent upfront, which further compounds the financial burden on newcomers seeking affordable housing solutions.


In response to these housing challenges in Montréal, Housing Hawk has stepped in to bridge the gap for newcomers. Housing Hawk works and negotiates with landlords in order to provide affordable housing with the amenities required such as furniture, Wi-Fi etc...


Learn more about our services at Housing Hawk by visiting our webpage.


For in-depth information on the challenges newcomers face in renting apartments, read more details in this article here.


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