McMaster needs to help ease the Hamilton housing crisis
The victims of scams, cutthroat competition and more scams – students need better support navigating the housing crisis
With the brutal race to find listings, equally intense bidding wars and scams everywhere, McMaster University students continue to face unrelenting obstacles in attaining off-campus housing this year. And they need support – support that the university is failing to provide.
Fuelled by the impacts of the pandemic, the shortage of on- and off-campus housing and the rapidly growing number of McMaster students, affordable housing has evolved into a luxury that few are fortunate to find. While the Hamilton housing crisis may seem like a simple supply and demand issue at first glance, the unstable rental market poses unique challenges for different groups of Students.
International and out-of-province students, for one, are faced with difficulties when trying to arrange their accommodation from a different country or province. Being unable to view listings and meet with landlords in person only makes them more vulnerable to scams and difficult landlords. On top of that, McMaster’s own off-campus housing website does not screen listings and fails to protect students from scams.
Male students are also overlooked in the housing crisis. Though advertising for female-only housing tends to be abundant in Facebook groups and other listing websites, male and co-ed student housing is scarce. Even on McMaster’s off-campus housing website, which features co-ed residences, a majority of the listings are over a thousand dollars per room, rendering the homes unaffordable for many students.
And let’s not forget the incoming first-year students who are waitlisted for residence at McMaster due to the limited availability of rooms and competitive eligibility criteria based on academic achievement. Not only are these students inexperienced, but they also lack the advantage of starting their search earlier in the school year since residence applications take place in June. Without sufficient time and resources provided by McMaster, incoming students are forced to fight for the last few available rentals.
As many McMaster students have yet to secure affordable, safe and convenient housing, they face a year of uncertainty.
Some students may need to make a commute worth hours or exceed their budgets to afford a sub-par room near campus, while others with limited financial flexibility and fortune are on the verge of homelessness. The sheer infeasibility and severity of current circumstances could even push some students to consider dropping out this year.
To make matters worse, the period of economic inflation continues to put a strain on students. It also doesn’t help that McMaster’s bursary applications close during the winter term. The uncertainty of being accepted for funding and ill-timed disbursement doesn’t allow students to plan their finances for the academic year.
Though McMaster is working to create more residences, there is a need for unique short-term solutions to address the current state of the crisis.
McMaster must recognize that the Hamilton housing crisis is about much more than housing.
From the search for housing to life in their new homes, the crisis has taken a significant physical and mental toll on students, putting their success and well-being at stake. The stress of managing finances, employment, commuting, school and poor housing conditions, such as overcrowding, is draining students across the country.
Students should not have to think twice about purchasing a meal or saving up for next month’s rent. They should not have to compromise their own well-being or academic success because of unaffordable housing. McMaster and other post-secondary institutions need to do better.