NewsStudents’ wallets shocked by OSAP cuts, high rents

ETC StaffSeptember 30, 20198 min

Emily Wilson, News Reporter

Some Humber College students are putting up with shared rooms and bad landlords in the current Toronto housing crisis.

Edward, a 21-year-old Bachelor of Paralegal Studies student who didn’t want his full name revealed for fear of eviction, said he had been looking for four months in 2018 until he found his current residence that is a 20-minute walk from school.

However the $725-a-month room in the nine-bedroom house comes with a cost, he said.

Edward said he faces strict rules such as a no-noise, no-guest policy and faces eviction if caught.

His landlord cleans the house herself which apparently allows her to get around the 24-hour notice requirement to enter rooms and apartments, he said.

Edward said this is a compromise for being able to pay less than his originally budgeted amount of $1,100 and living a short distance from the school.

Being careful about accommodation costs follows a cut to the financial help he received from the provincial government.

“OSAP didn’t even cover tuition this year,” Edward said.

He said OSAP last year gave him around $12,000 to cover his tuition and some books, but this year the student assistant program offered only about $6,000.

The second-year student said he would have been unable to return to his studies if his parents were not helping him significantly while he’s receiving workers’ compensation.

“I just have to be a lot more frugal,” and to find a job, he said.

International students are also feeling the pressure of finding affordable housing.

Ritaban Das, a 30-year-old from Kolkata, India, which is near the border with Bangladesh, found his room just before arriving in Toronto to study in the 3D Modelling and Visual Effects Production grad program.

He said he planned to share a room with a friend from India but it didn’t work out, making it difficult to find something within his budget. He is currently looking for a roommate to share the $1,050-a-month room tucked behind the North campus.

Das said his rent is a significant leap from his $400 to $500 budget before leaving India.

“I have seen three or four basements that really are not a good place to stay,” he said.  “I’m in a lot of groups so I’ll keep posting to find a roommate.”

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation noted the average 2018 monthly rental in the GTA is $1,359.

Ankit Khurana, another international student from New Delhi, India, in his second-year of Supply Chain Management, also had a rough time.

Khurana, 23, said he was looking into AirBnB and Homestay programs before coming to Toronto until he realized they were too expensive.

Luckily, he was able to get in contact with a friend moving from Calgary to Brampton, although it is much farther from the school than he wanted, he said.

“[Brampton is] far but to get something, you need to lose something,” Khurana said.

He said he had a budget before he left but it was unreasonable.

While searching blogs two or three months prior to moving, he read that $350 to $450 was enough to sustain him each month, Khurana said.

Edward said he wants students to “educate yourself on your rights,” an exact point made by Suze Morrison, the provincial NDP’s Critic for Tenant Rights and former critic for Housing.

The Toronto Centre MPP said “there are a lot of rules out there that protect tenants, but with the housing crisis that we’re in tenants often get taken advantage of by their landlords” and that is often due to language barriers.

“[For example] if you, all of a sudden get a rent increase from your landlord and you don’t know the rules but are given a five per cent increase and the guideline is only two per cent, that’s an illegal increase and you don’t have to pay that,” Morrison said.

Provincial rental guidelines limited increases to 2.2 per cent in 2020, and 1.8 per cent in 2019.