Concordia's Thursday Report

Vol. 28, No. 1

September 11, 2003


Housing is first hurdle for new students

by Colleen Gauthier

Just one week before class, Sam LeClair, a new student from Wisconsin, wanted to know, "Where am I going to live?"

"I was told that it would only take about three days to find an apartment," sighed LeClair, as she and her mother rested their tired feet outside the CSU Off-Campus Housing Bank."I’ve been looking for five days already, and our hotel reservation has run out," she said.

With the vacancy rate in the city of Montreal hovering around 0.6 per cent and the beds in Concordia’s residence occupied, finding affordable housing has become a challenge for many students.

LeClair is just one of many students that arrived at Concordia this year with no place to live. Each year, hundreds of students flood the Housing Bank to pore over apartment listings, look for roommates and ask for advice.

Christina Xydous, the housing bank co-ordinator, said that she is seeing more students who are willing to settle for less because they are desperate. However, students don’t know their rights when it comes to renting an apartment.

"They are being asked to provide bank account numbers, social insurance numbers and passport information, as well as pay all sorts of illegal deposits," she said.

In Concordia’s International Students Office, students from all over the world meet in a small conference room strewn with the classified sections from Montreal’s newspapers. They’re taking a two-week-long housing support workshop to help them look for accommodation in an unfamiliar city.

Third-year international business student Landry Hourdolo has been volunteering for the workshop since its inception three years ago. Hourdolo, from West Africa, said that international students have an especially difficult time finding apartments before they arrive in Montreal.

"It is difficult to find a place over the Internet," he said."Students call and everything sounds great, and then they get here and it has no heat or no doors."

Though the housing situation affects all students, preliminary statistics show that the number of new international students pursuing full-time undergraduate studies has increased about 35 per cent over last year, while the number of new Canadian students has remained stable.

Hourdolo thinks it would be "cool" to have Concordia-owned apartment buildings downtown. "People don’t want to be at Loyola, especially international students who come to Montreal to experience the city," he said.

In an effort to combat Montreal’s tight rental market, McGill University recently purchased the former Renaissance-Montreal hotel on Parc Ave. This increased McGill’s residence space to 1,750, guaranteeing housing availability to all newly admitted undergraduate students who are starting their first year.

With 144 beds in its residence on Loyola, Concordia has the lowest number of beds available in student residence of any Montreal university. According to Michael Di Grappa, Vice-Rector, Services, Concordia intends to acquire 500 additional beds for September 2004.

In the meantime, students who need assistance in their apartment search can seek advice from Xydous at the CSU Off-Campus Housing Bank, or pick up a copy of their student guide to housing in Montreal.

"Everyone will be OK in the end. They always are," said Xydous, as she simultaneously answered her ringing phone and printed out new apartment listings. "They may have to live a little farther away, or in a smaller place, but they’ll find something."