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As New School Year Begins, Trent Students Relay Their Experiences Finding Housing

Written by
Sebastian Johnston-Lindsay
and
and
September 7, 2023
As New School Year Begins, Trent Students Relay Their Experiences Finding Housing
Photo by Rishabh Joshi.

With the 2023/24 school year officially underway at Trent University, the Arthur team took to the sweltering pathways, bridges, and never-ending Starbucks lines of Symons Campus to talk to students about their experiences finding housing for this school year. It is well known that Peterborough boasts one of the lowest vacancy rates in the country and that Trent makes no attempt to hide its ever increasing enrolment numbers, which tend always to exceed even senior administration’s lofty expectations.

We wanted to get a sense of the approaches students took to find a place to live not only to get a sense of what it is like for Trent students to find housing, but also to help share tips or tricks for anyone still looking for who will be looking in the future.

Our conversations provide a general sense of where students are living, how are they going about finding their new homes, and are they happy with their housing arrangement in terms of affordability and accessibility to campus via transit? Finally, we asked what is Trent doing, in the eyes of these students, to help them find housing and are students making use of these resources?

Mikaela Lewis, a Cultural Studies and Anthropology student who pays what they consider to be an average rent of $650 for a bedroom in a house. Lewis told Arthur that the process of finding housing for this year was “hectic,” and that they didn’t really feel like they knew what they were doing as they looked. 

Like other students who spoke to Arthur, Lewis looked for housing alone, which they suggested made things more difficult. 

“I found it kind of difficult to find single person accommodations,” Lewis said. “I applied to a few different places and I got one house tour. I was really lucky.”

In terms of accessing Trent’s housing resources, such as the Off-Campus Housing Office, Lewis, like many others, said that they had not reached out for help but were aware of some of the services available to students looking for housing. 

“I think off campus housing seems like a decent resource, but it also seems fairly understaffed,” they told Arthur. Specifically, Lewis said it can be difficult for students to know what to look for in leases as the language can sometimes be confusing for young people, which can lead to exploitation and unfair agreements. 

Ensuring that Trent’s resources are communicating the extent of their services in this respect, they said, would be beneficial as well as timely reminders through the year for students for when they should begin looking for housing. 

Additionally, Lewis feels strongly that Trent has a responsibility to help students, especially those just coming to Trent who weren’t guaranteed a residence spot, to find proper housing due to increased enrolment figures and the existing strain on housing in the City. 

Of the housing crisis, Lewis noted that “there are arguments to be made about whether or not Trent University contributed to that, but either way, if they contributed or not, I think that they have a responsibility to the students that they that are paying thousands of dollars each year,  tens of thousands of dollars to them to kind of give back to the students and support students in basic human rights.”

Kathleen Morgan, who is entering her second year in Forensics at Trent, looked for housing with friends she met in residence during first year. Morgan related a story of a landlord who attempted to raise the initial rental price from $600 per room to $750, which forced her and most of her group to look elsewhere. 

For her part, Morgan told Arthur that she wasn’t aware of the available services Trent offered to students looking for off-campus housing, however, she noted that her experience was very simple when compared to others. 

Key advice Morgan had for students looking for housing is to make sure that they know their worth, not jump at the first place just because it’s available and to make sure that you listen to your gut when interacting with a landlord initially. 

“If you don’t trust your landlord immediately, you’re not going to trust them in three years,” she said. 

While Lewis and Morgan both related relatively positive experiences with housing, most of the students Arthur spoke to related varying accounts of the horrors and frustrations with the process.

One student, who asked to remain anonymous, emphatically remarked that it “sucked balls,” and that many of the ads online, specifically on Facebook and Kijiji, did not accurately represent the unit for rent.

“A lot of them were not great,” they said, relating tales of mouldy showers and living quarters. They also told Arthur that they currently pay $825 for a room, which is an increase from $550 for a room they rented prior to moving. 

Others, who again did not want their name in print, noted how quickly housing went and the frustration surrounding the costs.

“The prices we’re paying for the housing that we’re living in is beyond me,” they said. “The amount of people [Trent accepts] newly every year, it’s crazy, unless there are that many graduates leaving, then I don’t understand why they’re admitting so many people.” 

Aanya Chandra also had a distinctly different time of finding housing, calling the process “absolutely horrible” specifically the ways that landlords treat their students. 

“I was lucky enough to find housing to someone I know,” Chandra stated, outlining how she has had past landlords come into their house and room without warning, and noting a number of “scams” on Facebook, as well as being shown homes which would leave her concerned for her safety. 

Chandra, who shares with six roommates in a house and pays $650, feels that this is a good rate when compared to other people who they said pay close to $900 a month for a smaller room than the one she has. 

However, sharing with this many people has its drawbacks, even when you’re good friends with the people you live with, which Chandra fortunately is.  

“It's really hard to find spaces to do your own work and to have any sort of peace and quiet,” they explained. “Even if I have meetings or anything, I cannot be at home because I cannot expect everyone to be accommodating to my need for silence.”

When asked about the responsibility Trent has to help students find housing, Chandra told Arthur that the fact they keep taking on more and more students each year increases the need for them to support students in this task. This is something that Chandra feels Trent is falling behind on overall. 

Despite the interest in bringing new students to the school Trent takes “no responsibility for the students that are already in the university,” Chandra said before outlining an instance they were aware of wherein an international student had been forced to live in a hotel. 

After reaching out to the university for support, according to Chandra, the student was told that Trent could not help.

“They said they couldn't do anything and couldn't even help them out with their funds,” Chandra said, adding that this was especially concerning “considering that the person I met was an international student and they had no help and resources in Canada.”

Overall, Chandra was keen to point out how they had been extremely privileged to find the housing that they did, and depended on networks of friends in order to find it. The fact they’re able to walk to campus in instances where transit isn’t operating properly is also a definite plus.

“It won’t be pleasant, but I can do it,” they said, which seems to perfectly encompass the feelings of many students as they start this new academic year. 

With files from Evan Robins and Abbigale Kernya.

Arthur Spring Elections 2024
Miracle Territory April 20th
Severn Court (October-August)
Theatre Trent 2023/24
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Arthur Spring Elections 2024
Miracle Territory April 20th
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