Renting a room in Ontario’s university towns

Monthly rent in the Student Ghetto ranges from $400 to $700, Western students pay between $375 and $550

Town-Gown Relations co-ordinator Joan Jones said students will see the housing market swell with leases being posted this month.

This means that students may have to look through several properties in order to find the one that’s right for them.

“You may have to look at 15 houses before you find the right place, whereas somebody in December may have only looked at two or three houses from one outstanding landlord,” she said.

Many of the high-quality leases are signed in December before winter holidays, she said. Students discover these properties through word of mouth or through speaking to landlords directly.

Waiting until March 1 to sign a lease may also prove beneficial, Jones said. This is when tenants must lawfully give the 60-day notice to their landlord if they won’t be resigning their current lease.

Jones works regularly with students to navigate the decision-making process behind signing a lease.

“I’d be surprised if there was a solid correlation between proximity and price,” she said. “It’s less about proximity and more [whether you are] informed about the rules.”

Ontario legislation has set the maximum yearly rent increase at 3.1 per cent for 2012.

The increase only applies to tenants who remain in the same unit. Rent is capped by the yearly provincial guideline, unless the landlord has applied for and been granted a rent increase. Landlords may apply for increases in the case of extensive property renovations

Students who move often are subject to market fluctuations that can result in price increases greater than the regulated amount.

Rentals in the Student Ghetto range from $400 to $700 a month per person, Jones said, adding that students are willing to pay the higher end of rental prices.

“People will believe that there are no places out there, and they panic,” she said. “That really skews the market quite a bit.”

Property management companies like Jess & Ewen and Varsity Properties have tapped into the student market with new units opening in areas north of Princess Street.

According to Jones, students who want to live in higher-quality units are willing to pay more despite the greater distance from campus.

“It’s the bells and whistles of that property management firm,” she said.

McMaster University’s off-campus resource centre Manager, Jennifer Kleven, said Hamilton’s rent prices, like Kingston’s, aren’t dependent on proximity to the university’s campus.

“It used to be that way many years ago,” she said.

According to Kleven, the average cost of one McMaster student’s rent is $375 per month plus utilities, though the quality of a house can vary greatly in this price range.

At the University of Western Ontario, students are given housing talks that educate about lease guidelines and bylaw issues surrounding renting for the first time.

Students are encouraged to lease property farther from campus in order to save money on rent. As part of their mandatory activity fee, much like Queen’s, Western students are given a bus pass that can be used throughout the year for commuting to campus.

“If you take a 10 minute bus ride, you’re probably going to save $100 bucks a month,” Glenn Matthews, housing mediation officer, said.

Matthews works with students and landlords to help them learn the ins and outs of leasing.

According to Matthews, rent near to the university can reach $550 a month per person, while houses further away dip to $375. At Western, proximity plays a visible role in rental prices.

“We tell the students the average is somewhere around $450 but the closer you are to campus, the higher you are,” he said. “You obviously have to pay the premium.”

Unlike Queen’s, Matthews said the off-campus housing service conducts a student survey roughly every five years to evaluate rental prices.

“Price and location are number one or two as far as considerations go when looking off campus,” he said.

An online interactive map to help students find Student Ghetto housing was released by the AMS Municipal Affairs Commission on Nov. 28 The map shows rent prices and utility fees for available units in the Student Ghetto.

Municipal Affairs Commissioner David Sinkinson works with the Student Property and Dwelling Education Team to moderate the site.

“Consider this the first step in a couple of years in learning how a market operates,” he said, adding that he hopes to advertise changes in lease price on the map in the future.

According to Sinkinson, the map is also designed to draw correlation between rental price and proximity to campus.

As of right now, it has shown mixed results.

“There’s nothing to suggest that anything closer is necessarily more expensive,” he said.

Sinkinson said the housing map is updated as frequently as possible. Students submit their housing information via form available on the website.

— With files from Terra-Ann Arnone

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