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.
With the end of the school year approaching, and new leases being signed, here’s what you should remember as a student renting off-campus housing
The school year is coming to a close and many students are debating whether to continue their leases for their current rental, while others still on the hunt for off-campus housing. Student renters often face issues in their homes that they are unequipped to advocate for, such as unaddressed maintenance problems and rent raises.
McMaster University has various resources available for students to become familiar with student housing laws and their tenant rights. The Silhouette has summarized some of the most important points from these resources that student tenants should know renting this season.
Renting prices in Ontario have seen a steady incline in the last few years. If you’re re-signing with the same rental, it’s likely that your landlord has instated rent increases for the upcoming school year.
It is important to note that landlords in Ontario can legally raise the rent by only 2.5 per cent. This rule applies even if your landlord is including utilities onto your rent; if the total rent increase is greater than 2.5 per cent, it is illegal.
Your landlord cannot demand a specific method of payment of rent, such as post-dated cheques. However, once a method of payment is agreed upon, it cannot be changed without the consent of both the landlord and the tenant.
There is a current student renter aid program available through the Government of Canada, which grants low-income renters a tax-free $500 in rent relief. The due date for application has passed, but more opportunities such as this one may become available in the future.
With regards to maintenance, your landlord has a responsibility to keep the rental unit in good repair and in compliance with health, safety, housing and maintenance standards. The landlord is responsible for any repairs, even if you were aware of the need for these repairs prior to signing.
If a landlord has failed to address a maintenance problem, tenants are advised to file a tenant application for maintenance within one year of the issue persisting. Note that a tenant cannot legally withhold rent due to landlords not complying with maintenance standards.
Lastly, it is important to remember that an eviction notice from the landlord does not necessarily mean you must comply and move out, specifically if you feel you’re being wrongly evicted.
Your landlord can only terminate tenancy under a specific set of guidelines and, further, the tenant does not have to move out when a landlord sends notice for eviction. If the tenant chooses not to move out, the Landlord and Tenant Board will decide during a hearing if the eviction should be enforced.
For more information about student housing tenant rights, visit the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, as recommended by the university.
McMaster students looking for housing in Hamilton deal with rent increases, lack of availability and lack of information
As the in-person fall term arrives, some McMaster students are struggling to find available and fairly priced student housing that is also of sound quality.
Lack of Availability and Increases in Rent
Bronwyn Mowat, a McMaster student, found the process of house hunting to be extremely challenging.
“It's absolutely insane trying to get an off-campus house right now. I've had lots of experiences of people telling me they're no longer accepting applicants because of the sheer volume of people responding to ads. A lot of people straight up ghosted me too,” said Mowat.
The increase in demand, according to Robert Braun, president of Wolverine Property Management, gives landlords the upper edge when selecting tenants, which leads to a sense of frustration when searching for housing.
“A landlord wouldn't let us on their property to tour the house because one of our members was in class and they would only give tours to full groups, even though when we messaged them that morning, they said it was fine if one person was missing,” said Mowat.
Ali Rehmaji, an Honours Biology fourth year student, described the difficulty of interacting with landlords. Rehmaji resorted to messaging several Facebook listings after having no responses through the Mac Off-Campus Housing program.
“Around fourth year, out of 52 different landlords I messaged, only 15 came back to me and I only was able to set up two actual visits before I found a place. It can be a nuisance that I could feel like could be changed,” said Rehmaji.
Rehmaji also described the lower quality houses currently for pre-pandemic prices.
“My rent is the same. But the difference is, in second year, I had a whole house a full kitchen, two bathrooms, five bedrooms and two floors, whereas this time, it's a small basement apartment, which is, if you look at size, I'd say at least four to five times smaller for the same price,” said Rehmaji.
Information Barriers for International Students
Chinmay Ravindran, an international student going into his final year of the MBA program, described the added difficulty international students face when searching for student houses. Ravindran, who moved to Hamilton in 2021, initially found it hard to access resources about tenant’s rights.
“Before we flew in, we didn’t know the rules. We didn't know that that the rules were mostly in the favor of the tenant,” said Ravindran.
Ravindran explained this lack of information about tenant’s rights can lead to some landlords taking advantage of international students.
“There needs to be a playbook or guide that really shares what an international student needs to know before that first conversation with a potential landlord. Before they take their first step, they need to know it all,” said Ravindran.
Ravindran also echoed the struggles of dealing with a rent increase.
“The extra $250 that we pay each month, it adds up. We would have wanted to use that $250 to buy a little more groceries or to go out more,” said Ravindran.
The Housing Crisis: A Property Manager’s Perspective
Braun attributes the lack of available houses to owners selling properties during the pandemic.
“Since the pandemic, a lot of the owners we work with sold off their properties because they couldn't rent them. And a lot of them converted back to residential use because that was still a viable option through the pandemic,” said Braun.
As in-person classes were reintroduced, students faced a market with a lower availability of student houses, which resulted in large volumes of applicants for landlords.
“Well, it's been crazy. Really. The demand so outstrips the supply and a lot of our available rooms were gone in May and June,” said Braun.
Braun remarked rent increases are a a result of various increases in insurance, hydro costs, taxes and the inflation and supply-chain issues of property maintenance.
As the class of 2026 progresses through their first year, issues with finding off-campus housing loom over them. With a highly competitive housing market that favours the landlords, students are left to deal with rent increases, a lack of availability and information when looking for accommodations.
Jessica Yang/Production Assistant
Housing is still a problem for many as in-person classes are set to commence
Prior to the 2021 winter break, students began to search for housing for the 2022 school year when McMaster University announced plans for a near full return to campus. This meant upper-years were looking to sublet rooms for the winter semester and first-years were looking to sign year-long contracts.
Now, with in-person classes beginning for all students on Feb. 7, some students still find themselves in the process of house hunting.
Mario Panza, a fourth-year student who struggled to find housing before the break, gave an update on his search for housing this semester. With more listings, availability has gone up, but Panza stated that landlords have taken to increasing prices during this season of demand.
“I was seeing 700 [dollar] minimums,” said Panza.
Fortunately, upper-year students now have McMaster residences as another option this year. Holly Gibson, manager of marketing and communications at housing and conference services, said residence is currently accepting applications from all years.
“This is not a typical year, so we had the opportunity to open up space for all levels,” said Gibson.
Gibson also mentioned that a great way for students to get in touch with the residence team to ask questions is through their Instagram.
Residence buildings reopen as of Jan. 14 and winter residence applications continue to be reviewed beginning mid-January.
Zara Khan, a first-year student who was also struggling to find housing before the winter break, said that students were told residences would open a week into the semester due to a rise in the Omicron variant during the holiday season.
Khan also said there were some worries among students about adding additional residents when moving out for the winter break.
“Before we all moved out, there were speculations that more people were moving in . . . There’s kind of that COVID scare. There’s more people on the same floor using the same things,” said Khan.
Since Oct. 18, it has been mandatory for students and staff to be fully vaccinated before entering campus buildings and McMaster residences. With the vaccination booster rollout being accelerated due to an increase in the Omicron variant, anyone over the age of 18 is now eligible to book their booster as of Dec. 20. However, Gibson said there is not yet any requirement for boosters at McMaster.
“Residence is following MacCheck vaccination guidelines that the university has put into place. So, what the university is saying, that's what we're going to follow. There isn't any talk about boosters in residence at this time, but we would encourage people to get the booster shot if they can,” said Gibson.
With residence accepting applications from all years, hopefully, many students will soon be ready to return to campus.
C/O Ainsley Thurgood
The City of Hamilton warns students their residence may have lead service pipes via letter
By: Kate O’Melia, News Staff Writer
Students living in houses built before 1955 in Hamilton might be getting a letter from the City of Hamilton warning them about lead in their private water service pipe.
The City of Hamilton is aware there are approximately 20,000 homes with lead pipes in Hamilton currently. Lead can be dangerous for a number of reasons, including health effects such as reduced cognition, increased blood pressure and renal dysfunction. Since this was not known when many of Hamilton's older houses were built, it was used in pipes until 1955 and in the solder for the pipes’ connections up to the 1990s. Unfortunately, some of these may include McMaster University student houses.
One household in the Westdale area received a letter from the City of Hamilton in early September, during McMaster’s Welcome Week, warning that they had a lead or unknown private water service pipe entering their house.
Mac student Trevor Whitesell said his house received the letter right after moving in to start their second year. Since receiving the letter on Sept. 7, he and his roommates have been more cautious with their water intake.
"I don't want to risk it . . . Small amounts [of lead] can be harmful, so I'm pretty cautious about it. I think we just got a Brita the other day [to] make sure we're not drinking it. But other than that, we just drink bottled water instead. For showering and brushing your teeth with the water, what else can you really do?" said Whitesell.
Their service pipe was not confirmed to be lead, but because the house was built prior to 1955, it was suggested that the residents identify the type of pipe supplying water to protect themselves from possible toxic lead exposure.
“The private portion of this pipe is the responsibility of the homeowner,” stated the letter.
Since the lines installed are on private property, it is up to the homeowner to check for any lead and replace service pipes if needed.
This isn’t the first time Mac students have had run-ins with lead pipes.
In May of 2020, a Spotted At Mac post was made stating that the City of Hamilton had confirmed their house in the Emerson area had lead pipes and warned other students to check their houses for lead pipes.
Usually, the city would arrange for a Water Distribution Operator to come into homes to check for lead pipes, but COVID-19 regulations make this impossible. For now, the city is asking residents to conduct the inspection using a visual and/or scratch test on their own by following a video tutorial.
A Tap Water Lead Levels map made in 2008 by the City of Hamilton shows that there are also many houses throughout Hamilton that contain some traces of lead, but at levels deemed safe enough for drinking. These homes can be identified as the green dots on the map which contain under 10 micrograms of lead per litre.
If a residence is inspected and found to have lead pipes, the homeowner must replace it at their own expense and schedule a date with the city for a replacement of the public portion of the pipe. The city does allow for applications to a $2,500 loan transferred to the homeowner’s water bill.
However, to qualify for this loan, the existing pipe needs to be substantially composed of lead. Additionally, replacing lead pipes can be difficult and costly even if the loan is granted.
Whitesell and his roommates are worried that their landlord will not want to address the possible lead exposure in the household because of how costly this might be. Students facing similar circumstances may feel the same way.
Currently, the City of Hamilton estimates that it will take approximately 25 to 40 years to replace all the private water service pipes containing lead.
Standard lease laws meant for working adults aren’t suitable for students
C/O NIcolas J Leclercq
By: Ardena Bašić, Contributor
Students are subject to the same laws as anyone else who signs a lease: there is a specified time period, strict periodic payment dates and very little opportunity to terminate a lease if the need arises. However, even with a guarantor that is required by most student leases, adhering to some of these guidelines can cause potent pressure on students. With the university lifestyle already bearing intense stress, students should be allowed specialized lease laws.
Firstly, students should be allowed to rent for more flexible time periods. This could include monthly or semiannual leases, break periods and other dynamic arrangements.
While landlords could be initially skeptical of this proposal in that they could see low demand for some months of the year, students would be more content with landlords who allow them to save money for the months that they do not need housing.
This could transmit into higher renewal rates and more loyalty to a landlord overall. More so, break periods could allow landlords to flexibly advertise places through their own means, which is likely more successful than students trying to advertise subletting places through their own methods and busy schedules. Overall, higher flexibility with renting dates would actually benefit both students and landlords.
Secondly, students should not face consequences if they fail to adhere to the usual “first of every month” payment plan. While this offers regularity for the landlord and tenant, tuition payments, living costs and other fees can make it difficult to always pay on time.
Rent should be treated like a credit card payment: on-time payment is rewarded with no interest, while failure to do so will build an interest expense over time.
As a result, students would have some more freedom with regard to sorting payment dates for their multiple expenses, yet will still be motivated to pay on time due to interest. Landlords might receive their money later but would still benefit from the extra interest revenue. This would also take pressure off of lease guarantors, who usually have their own expenses to worry about, albeit the ones for their children or peers.
Lastly, students should be able to terminate their lease — with due notice — if they wish to do so. COVID-19 makes a particularly profound argument for this option. Many students wanted to move back home to their families for a variety of reasons but still had to pay rent for their residences that they may have already signed for up to a year.
This could cause feelings of guilt, as you are paying for something that you aren’t using. However, landlords would lose quite a bit of revenue if many students left their rentals. Nonetheless, some landlords still have several houses that they can gain revenue from alongside potential day jobs, while most students already have debt and need to prioritize saving.
This last recommendation is most certainly the most abstract and could be detrimental to landlords, but would still contribute to higher satisfaction from renters and potentially loyalty and a good reputation for the landlord in the future.
Student life is full of the unknown, challenges, opportunities and not many constants. Having more flexibility when it comes to finding accommodation close to where one is studying can take a profound amount of stress and pressure off of students and their guarantors.
With student housing being a market with relatively stable demand, landlords should certainly consider these recommendations and how they could positively impact their reputation and relationship with current and future students.
Greater safety precautions needed amongst student housing
CW: This article refers to instances of physical and sexual violence.
On Oct. 1, a 34-year-old identified as Michael Gallo was stabbed in the backyard of his home near Main Street West and Haddon Ave. South.
On Oct. 1, a 34-year-old identified as Michael Gallo was stabbed in the backyard of his home near Main Street West and Haddon Ave. South.
Gallo was found with stab wounds and taken to the hospital where he died of his injuries.
Kelly Botelho reported for CHCH that neighbours said Gallo had come out of the house that day, hugging his abdomen and asking for help.
Due to its close proximity to McMaster University, the Westdale area is a popular area for student housing.
Andrew Mrozowski, a fourth-year political science student and Managing Editor of the Silhouette, lives one street down from Haddon Avenue on Dalewood Avenue and has been in his student house since September.
Mrozowski recalls that when news broke about the stabbing that night, both him and his housemates were afraid. Not until the next morning after driving past Gallo’s house did he process the severity of the incident.
“Just because we live near Mac doesn't mean that we still should not take the precautions to be safe,” Mrozowski said. He was reminded that although Westdale is heavily populated by students of McMaster, it is still a neighbourhood like any other.
“Just because we live near Mac doesn't mean that we still should not take the precautions to be safe,” Mrozowski said.
In recent years, there have been several incidents within the student neighbourhoods around McMaster. In August and September 2018, there was a series of break-ins and attempted break-ins that targeted women. A 32-year-old man, Daniel Severin, was charged in February 2019 in connection with six incidents in Westdale during that time period.
Severin was charged with numerous crimes, including sexual assault, four counts of voyeurism, and six counts of criminal harassment. Severin was caught and charged five months after the first attack.
There were other incidents as well. A fight in September 2019 left two men with non-life-threatening stab wounds in the area of Whitney Avenue and Emerson Street. A couple was attacked on Bowman Street in October 2019, where a 19-year-old man had non-life-threatening stab wounds and a 19-year-old woman was sprayed with an unknown aerosol. It is unclear whether anyone was charged in connection to these incidents.
In thinking about why Westdale might lack safety measures, Mrozowski suggested that the lack of media coverage over student incidents may be a contributing factor.
In addition, to make Westdale a safer area for students, Mrozowski suggested that the university and the McMaster Students Union should be more involved. He would like to see students have authority other than the police to turn to for concerns within student housing.
“I hope [after hearing what happened] McMaster students really stop and consider, are they being safe . . . [I hope that] this horrible incident brings the community together to take further precautions to make sure it doesn't happen to anybody else in anybody else's family,” Mrozowski added.
"[I hope that] this horrible incident brings the community together to take further precautions to make sure it doesn't happen to anybody else in anybody else's family,” Mrozowski added.
Other students have also voiced concerns over the lack of police response to issues of violence in and around McMaster. A group of McMaster students and supporters called De Caire Off Campus continue to advocate for the removal of Head of Security Services Glenn De Caire and the removal of all special constables.
The group has cited failures of special constables to adequately respond to mental health crises and sexual violence.
In an update from the Hamilton Police Services, a man who was in the immediate area has now been deemed a suspect. The man was nearly hit by a vehicle while crossing the same intersection that night around five minutes before police were called to Gallo’s home.
The man is described as slender, about 5’9” and wearing a grey sweater with black sleeves along with a blue surgical mask.
Police are asking that people who were in the area at the time and saw the suspect to contact them. They are also asking homeowners in the Westdale area to check cameras and surveillance footage.
Anyone with information is also asked to call police at 905-546-3874 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
I live in a twelve-bedroom student house. In a single week, we have, at minimum, between two and three large bags of garbage. So far, the city has taken our bags, but this will soon change once we run out of trash tags. While my crowded housing situation might be unique, many other students are in a similarly tight position in regards to Hamilton’s garbage and recycling policy.
Since 2010, Hamilton has had a one-bag per limit policy for homeowners. This means that the city will collect only one bag of trash during the weekly curbside collection, with no limits placed on the amount of recycling collected.
The policy was created to improve the city’s waste diversion efforts, with a goal to divert 65 per cent of residential garbage away from landfills by 2021. With the city’s waste diversion rate currently standing in the mid-40 per cent, it is evident that there is still much work to be done.
The policy has undergone several revisions since its initial implementation but has stayed firm in its one-bag limit. The most important revision has been the increase in available trash tags. If more than one garbage bag needs to be picked up for the week, the additional bags require trash tags.
Each household receives 12 trash tags and can request once per year, with no fee, up to 14 more. Once requested, no more trash tags can be ordered until the following year.
This translates to 26 additional bags of trash that can be collected per year. While this seems like a lot, that is not enough to sustain a house that produces at least two bags of trash per week for a year. Untagged bags of trash are not collected, so where does this excess trash go?
The city’s recommendation is that excess waste is dropped off at the nearest community recycling centre, with an associated fee. Unfortunately, many students lack the time, resources and finances to utilize these centres. What typically results then is either illegal dumping or the storing of excess waste somewhere in the household, with hopes that it will be collected during the next collection period.
Both alternatives have their consequences. Illegal dumping often counteracts any environmental benefits that a one-bag limit creates. While storing excess waste in one’s house can temporarily solve the issue, this can lead to a build-up of trash that has the potential to cause a number of health and safety concerns.
It is not feasible for large student households to greatly reduce their total waste to meet a one-bag limit. There ought to then be a balance between reaching the city’s waste-reduction goals and forcing students to look for alternative, costly means to dispose of their waste. Until changes are made, these issues will continue to plague the city.
A complete elimination of the one-bag limit is not necessary; what should be developed is a special consideration for student households. A special consideration policy has already been developed for certain individuals that are likely to have more than one garbage bag every week.
Households that involve people with medical circumstances, families with two or more children under the age of four, registered home day cares, or agricultural businesses can apply for special consideration. Upon approval, these households are given extra trash tags that can be used on a need-be basis. By listing student households as one of the accepted special consideration cases, this can allow large student households to request additional support from the city as needed.
While obviously the one-bag trash limit was founded with good intentions, it is ultimately an unrealistic policy for every student house to abide by. With the appropriate change, however, the city can continue to strive towards its environmental goals while accommodating its large student population.
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On Sept. 4, the City of Hamilton Planning Committee approved a zoning amendment application for a new two-storey Columbia International College student residence. This is the latest development in a project that stretches back four years.
The residence will be built on the corner of Main Street West and Longwood Road and consists of an 18-storey tower and a 16-storey tower building connected by a four-story podium. It will mainly serve as a residence, though it will have other commercial and recreational uses as well.
The developer, John Lecluse, is optimistic about the project going forward.
“We’re hoping to have quite a bit of ground moved a year from now,” said Lecluse.
The primary barrier to the project was a possible erosion hazard that could affect the Chedoke Creek valley system. However, the Hamilton Conservation Authority board gave their approval on the grounds that certain conditions are met.
The project parallels McMaster’s plans for a new residence on Main Street West, which began last year and is still in the planning stages. That building is planned to stand between Dalewood Avenue and Forsyth Avenue.
Some community concerns with the CIC project, such as increased car and foot traffic, increased noise, and the shadowing effect of tall buildings, have also been raised in light of McMaster’s proposal.
However, according to Ainslie Wood/Westdale Community Association president Ira Rosen, one of the key differences between the projects is that, unlike the McMaster building, which will stand over houses on Traymore Avenue, the CIC building is not directly next to homes.
“There are no houses that are going to be affected by those [CIC] buildings because it’s right at the corner of [Main Street West] and [Longwood Road S],” said Rosen. “The closest permanents live just across the street. It’s not the same as the location the university is planning. The university location is literally on a side street where there are houses.”
Gord Arbeau, McMaster director of communications, said that McMaster has recently amended the building design to try and address some issues with the previous design, including parking, available amenities activities and the increased flow of pedestrians. It is worth noting that the current design has 90 percent of the building at ten stories, lower than the originally proposed thirteen stories.
“We’re seeking more feedback,” said Arbeau. “We’ll be presenting the plan to the city and the city planners and we look to finalize and fine-tune that design in the next month or so, and then we would envision submitting another application to the city sometime thereafter.”
The university is hoping to begin construction next year and have the building open for August 2021.
The AWWCA will meet to discuss the latest changes to the McMaster proposal at their annual general meeting on Sept. 17. Rosen said they are hoping to find a middle ground with the university and are open to development as long as both parties can work together.
Those involved with the McMaster project plan to continue their consultations with community groups such as the AWWCA and attend regular meetings help by the president’s advisory committee on community relations.
While McMaster has no affiliation with CIC, Arbeau noted that, in both cases, there is increased development along Main Street West.
“I think what we’re seeing in Hamilton, especially with the [light rail transit], is a desire for the city to intensify development along lanes especially on Main Street, which is where the LRT will run,” said Arbeau.
As explained by Arbeau, both housing projects are being planned for with the potential construction of LRT in mind. LRT not only impacts the construction of new buildings because of the potential widening of Main Street West, but also represents a potentially more convenient way to commute across the city, especially for those close to Main Street West.
Both McMaster and CIC are hoping to alleviate student housing shortages by constructing large buildings along Main Street West, a trend that will likely continue across the city. The challenge for these plans will be to develop in a sustainable, responsible way that considers the perspectives of neighbouring communities.
By: Matthew Presz
For many students, it has been a smooth transition from residence in first year to a home off-campus for the remaining years of university. Rents would typically be around $500 per month for a room in a house of approximately four to eight students, or $1,000 to $1,200 per month if students opted for more privacy in a condo apartment.
There are also many who chose the commuter life in anticipation of having to payback those dreaded student loans or simply wanting to live at home. Regardless of housing decision throughout the degree, most of McMaster’s graduates will leave with greater knowledge, more skill, a better network and a hefty sum of student debt.
What lies ahead for our dear graduates? Social media has been littered with articles about rising home prices in Hamilton, especially in light of the New West Harbour Go Station and impending revitalization of Barton Street. Canada’s banking regulators have also imposed a stress test, as of Jan. 1, 2018, which slashes affordability, and seems to have the greatest impact on first-time homebuyers.
However, when it comes to affordability, there are ways to get creative when deciding how and when to jump into the home ownership circle. Rather than running straight to the bank for a pre-approval, a mortgage broker could offer an alternative lending solution that is not subject to the new stress-testing imposed by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions.
Don’t rush into any decisions when dealing with funds of a large scale and definitely do not be discouraged. There is light at the end of the tunnel for all McMaster graduates who surround themselves with proper due diligence.
Or how about help from parents? This does not mean gifted money, as only a few families could afford this, but it could be in the form of access to a Line of Credit, which would still be the burden of the recent grad. However, it would make a down payment feasible, limit mortgage default insurance costs and essentially create an extension of the upcoming mortgage.
Financing aside, let us discuss some of the options when deciding where to live. You may have rented a room near McMaster for the past couple of years, but you won’t want to be buying there as a personal residence, unless you are offsetting the mortgage through rental income of the other bedrooms. The average price of a home within one kilometre of the university over the past six months has been $594,461. Let’s compare that with an average selling price of $305,191 in north Hamilton and $424,714 on the Hamilton Mountain. The stated prices have only comprised of freehold properties, no condo or maintenance fees included, so that a more fair comparison can be seen.
A common theme that I have seen for alumni who wish to work and live in Hamilton upon graduation has been to secure a steady job and rent for one to two years while paying off student debt and saving for a down payment. This is followed by the purchase of a home whereby prospective rent could subsidize the mortgage.
Take, for example, a bungalow on Hamilton Mountain that costs $425,000 and has a separate entrance into the basement equipped with a mini kitchen, bathroom and two bedrooms. While the mortgage, utilities, home insurance and property taxes would likely run approximately $2,500 per month, that homeowner would also be able to charge upwards of $1,200 per month rent for the basement, leaving them with monthly home expenses of $1,300 per month.
Compare that cost of a freehold bungalow with the purchase of a one bedroom condo apartment in Hamilton, which is selling for an average price of $300,000 along with monthly condo fees of $300; total monthly costs at approximately $1,750. Often times, smarter investments do not have to cost more, and will end up costing less than rent in many cases.
The key to making a sound real estate investment is knowing all of the options at play, which can be used in conjunction with proper planning and budgeting. There is no such thing as equilibrium when it comes to the real estate market. The prices are driven by sentiment, which in turn leads to favourable conditions for those who have prepared accordingly.
Don’t rush into any decisions when dealing with funds of a large scale and definitely do not be discouraged. There is light at the end of the tunnel for all McMaster graduates who surround themselves with proper due diligence.