Some Nova Scotia students face ‘desperate’ situation amid housing crisis


Victoria Gibbs is used to getting emails from freshmen excited about getting to University of King’s College in Halifax and what orientation will be like.

But these days, Gibbs’ inbox as student union president is full of « pretty desperate » questions about where they can live.

« I’ve never seen a situation like this in the four years I’ve been at King’s, » Gibbs said Friday.

She said the current dire situation appears to be due to rising rents, combined with the ongoing housing shortage in Nova Scotia.

When she started at King’s, Gibbs said she crunched the numbers and determined it was cheaper to live off-campus, but that’s « by far » no longer the case. She said no other student she knows pays less than $700 a month, and it usually takes several roommates to split the costs.

« It’s supposed to be a college town, but it’s becoming more and more inaccessible, and I really wonder who the town is really for, » Gibbs said.

Victoria Gibbs is President of the King’s Students’ Union at the University of King’s College in Halifax. (Radio Canada)

Since most schools are back in person this year after months of teaching online during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gibbs said students may have to postpone their studies until they find a place. place to live.

King’s sent out an urgent request to alumni last week, looking for people to rent extra rooms or other space to students.

Dean of Students Katie Merwin’s email said the university’s on-campus housing was full and they still had 15 freshmen on the waiting list, even after converting from many single rooms into double rooms.

There are another 10 more senior students coming back who also can’t find accommodation. They added their names to the residence’s waiting list, Merwin said.

Another way universities could help would be to freeze or reduce tuition fees, which have increased in Nova Scotia during the pandemic, said Kris Reppas, Nova Scotia president of the Canadian Federation of Students.

Kris Reppas is the Nova Scotia President for the Canadian Federation of Students. (Nicole Lapierre Photography)

Reppas said provincial rent control legislation and a higher minimum wage would greatly help students.

“Some people then have to participate in dangerous living conditions where there are more people living in a space than there should be,” Reppas said.

The Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) has also asked its alumni to rent additional rooms or advise on apartments, particularly for the Yarmouth, Kentville and Truro areas.

Chauncey Kennedy, head of housing and student life at NSCC, said he has seen student housing problems grow over the past few years into what is now a crisis.

« It’s not just a human resource management issue. It’s a provincial issue, » Kennedy said Friday. “It’s just more expensive to live in Nova Scotia.

King’s and NSCC, along with other schools, use websites like to connect students with people who rent rooms. Kennedy also said they are always looking for host families to support international students through the Canada Homestay Network.

On-campus housing at NSCC’s Strait Area Campus and Nautical Institute in Port Hawkesbury, NS. (NSCC)

NSCC also has a waiting list for its three on-campus accommodations, and Kennedy said he is considering temporarily adding more students to those buildings.

Kennedy said three new provincially-funded student housing projects, planned for NSCC’s Akerley, Ivany and Pictou campuses, are another way to address housing issues, but won’t be ready until 2024 and 2025 at the earliest. .

Spokespersons for Dalhousie University and Saint Mary’s University (SMU) said Friday they have not sent emails to alumni seeking help housing students this fall.

Cale Loney, a spokesperson for SMU, said that while they have a waiting list for rooms on campus which is « standard » for this time of year, and the overall number of applications is slightly down from pre-pandemic years.

Dalhousie spokeswoman Janet Bryson said they don’t currently have a « very long waiting list » for their approximately 2,300 residence beds.

Some Nova Scotia students face ‘desperate’ situation amid housing crisis

Students from some universities and colleges have still not found accommodation for the upcoming fall semester. Watch Tom Murphy’s interview with Victoria Gibbs, President of the University of King’s College Halifax Students’ Union.



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