Student Accommodation in Canada – A Complete Guide
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Student Accommodation in Canada – A Complete Guide

Written by Sarah Hastings-Woodhouse

Choosing where you’ll live is an important step in your study abroad journey. Canada has many accommodation options for postgraduate students, both on and off campus.

This guide explains what types of accommodation are available, how much you can expect to pay and how to pick the right one for you.

Living on campus

Most universities in Canada offer on-campus accommodation for students. Some will offer residences specifically for postgraduates.

Rooms in postgraduate housing are either private or shared (sharing with a roommate will be cheaper, though this is not always an option for graduate students).

You’ll generally live in a ‘suite’ with several other students (either single or mixed gender) with a shared kitchen, living area, laundry facilities and Wi-Fi. Bathrooms may be ensuite or shared. You may have the option of adding a meal plan to the cost of your accommodation which will provide you with breakfast, lunch and dinner in a campus canteen.

How much does it cost to live on campus in Canada?

The cost of on-campus accommodation in Canada is highly variable and depends on your university and whether you choose a single or shared room. As an illustrative example, the University of Toronto charges between $1,004 and $1,467 per month for a room in its graduate housing. However, you should consult your university’s website for exact pricing. As a very general rule, student accommodation is likely to be more expensive than renting privately.

Pros and cons of living on campus

Pros

  • Living on campus generally requires less admin, since your utilities will be included in the rent, and you’ll have the option of paying for a meal plan. This means you’re guaranteed to have everything you need without too much extra work!
  • Staying in campus accommodation will make it easier to meet fellow students and get involved with on-campus activities. Most universities offer postgraduate-only residences, so you’ll likely live with fellow Masters and PhD students.
  • You’re more likely to be within in a short distance of the library and other campus facilities, cutting down on commuting time and costs.

Cons

  • On-campus student accommodation in Canada can be more expensive, especially if you choose to stay in a private room.
  • Places in student housing can fill up fast, so make sure to get your application in early if this is your preferred option!

How can I secure a place in on-campus accommodation?

You’ll usually need to complete a housing application through a portal on your university’s website. You may have to pay an application fee of around $100. Places are usually offered on a first-come, first-served basis, so make sure to apply as soon as your university place is confirmed.

Private accommodation

You also have the option of living in private, off-campus accommodation. You can choose to rent an entire apartment alone, but you will bring down costs significantly by opting to share a house or flat with other students.

Private housing in Canada may be either furnished or unfurnished. You will generally have to pay for utilities separately. Also bear in mind that washing machines will not always be provided, so you may have to budget for use of your local dry cleaners.

How much does it cost to live in private housing in Canada?

The cost of private housing in Canada can vary hugely depending on location. Large cities such as Vancouver and Ottawa are likely to be more expensive. According to crowdsourced data from Numbeo, the nationwide average for renting a one-bedroom apartment in Canada is CAD $1,694 in the city centre and CAD $1,462 outside.

However, it’s far more common for students to live in shared housing. You can generally expect to pay between CAD$400 and $800 per month for a room in a shared house.

How can I find private housing in Canada?

Your university’s housing office or students’ union should be your first port of call when it comes to looking for private housing. They may have a list of options near campus. You can also find listings in newspapers or on online portals such as Kijiji.

Pros and cons of private housing

Pros

  • Private housing in Canada is often cheaper than student accommodation.
  • You’ll have more flexibility when it comes to choosing who you live with and where. You’ll also have the option of shopping around for cheaper utility bills.
  • You’ll be able to get more integrated with Canadian society.

Cons

  • You’ll be responsible for organising your own utility bills and food, without the option of paying for a packaged deal.
  • It may be more difficult to meet fellow students and get involved with on-campus activities.
  • You may need to commute a larger distance to get to your classes or the library.

Homestay

A homestay involves staying with a host family in their home. You’ll generally have a private room but share a bathroom, kitchen and living room. Homestays usually include meals.

How much does a homestay cost?

The cost of a homestay can vary but will generally be between CAD $850 and $1,000 per month. There may be the option of paying for accommodation without meals, which will be cheaper. You may also opt to pay some additional fees for services like pick up from the airport.

Pros and cons of living in a homestay

Pros

  • Your host family will be able to show you around and help you get acquainted with the neighbourhood.
  • Meals and utility bills will usually be included.

Cons

  • It may be harder to meet fellow students when living in a homestay.
  • You will have to abide by the rules of the family you are living with, which could include curfews or limits around guests.

How do I secure a homestay?

    Some homestays are organised by universities. You’ll be able to find details of these on your university’s website. There are also independent organisations that match students with host families, such as the Canada Homestay Network.

Top tips for finding student accommodation in Canada

It’s important to choose your accommodation carefully when relocating to a new country. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Start looking early: It’s a good idea to begin exploring your accommodation options as soon as you have a confirmed university place. On-campus accommodation may have limited spaces and is usually allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Equally, there will be a rush on securing private accommodation near campuses right before the beginning of the academic year.
  • Get support from your university: Your university’s housing office or students’ union is there to help! They will likely have information specifically for international students on navigating the rental market in Canada, as well as a list of approved properties in the area.
  • Check for extra costs: Look beyond the up-front cost when choosing your ideal accommodation. Check whether your bill is all-inclusive, or you’ll have to pay extra for food, furniture or utilities.

Learn more about studying in Canada

Want to know more about studying in the USA? Read our comprehensive guides covering universities, funding, visas and more. Or start searching for a PhD in Canada today.


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Last Updated: 13 November 2023