Owen Demeules says he has had to make changes in his lifestyle because of the cost of rent in Ottawa.

The third-year Carleton University student pays $800 per month for a room in a five-bedroom unit. He has reduced the frequency of outings with friends and now chooses more economical food items at the grocery store.

“My nutrition has undoubtedly been affected. I save money in many areas of my life, including buying less of the more expensive organic, healthy foods,” Demeules said.

He is working to support his living expenses, while receiving some financial support from his parents.

“I think it is getting kind of ridiculous when students are expected to pay a ridiculous price of rent, while doing school and trying to fit in time to work and make the money to pay rent, ” he said. Demeules works 20 hours a week at just over minimum wage.

Rising rents

According to Canada Mortgage Housing Corp. (CMHC), rents have risen steadily over the past five years, with the cost for a two-bedroom apartment jumping from $1,300 per month in 2018 to more than $1,600 in 2022. CMHC data is based upon surveys of current residents, not on the price for a newly available apartments. Data from rentals.ca suggests that a newly available two-bedroom apartment in Ottawa would cost just over $2,200.

Supply and demand is an ever-present issue in the housing market, says Ruby Xue, a veteran Ottawa real estate agent.

“Demand for rental housing far outpaces the growth in supply in 2022, which means homes will have lower vacancy rates. Tenants will have even less initiative in the market,” Xue said.

As more and more houses are filled with tenants, finding an affordable home in Ottawa will become increasingly difficult.

More and more people

"At the same time, Ottawa's population and the number of students coming here have been growing,” Xue added.

"2022 is a little more special because more students are returning to campus and rents will be more expensive for houses in close proximity to school locations.”

High rents are affecting students' lives in different ways. Increased cost of living budgets are causing them to put in more extra effort to support their lives, such as working part-time. And that means they will have less time for their studies.

Jacob Fortin, a third-year student at the University of Ottawa, who pays $820 per month for a room in a five-bedroom unit, says this is paradoxical. Working can affect their on-campus performance.

"My tuition is the number one priority when the rent prices start to go up," Fortin said. Despite the financial strain caused by housing expenses, Fortin also spends no more than 20 hours working part-time to devote more time to his studies to ensure that tuition is not wasted. But working after school and then completing assignments still leaves him feeling exhausted. Most of the time it was late at night when he started his homework.

"It affects our chances to do well in school, with needing to buy things like textbooks and supplies as well, cost of living planning and control is becoming increasingly cumbersome.” Fortin said.

Many theories have been offered to explain the soaring costs of housing, including wage stagnation, speculation and a lack of action by governments at different levels to help facilitate new construction. An announcement from different levels of government in November is expected to see the construction of nearly 300 units in Ottawa, including some affordable units.

In late 2022 the Ontario government passed the "More Homes Built Faster Act," though housing experts are divided about the impact it will have on housing in Ontario's municipalities.