The current housing situation within Calgary is troublesome for most, including students seeking campus housing.

Jesse Irwin is going into his second semester this fall at Mount Royal University (MRU) and is new to the City of Calgary. Irwin started out as number 64 on MRU’s waitlist for residence but has since moved to number eight as of Aug, 28. Although Irwin has moved significantly on the waitlist, his housing situation is still a cause for concern. 

Coming from a small town five hours away from Calgary, Irwin said that he doesn’t have many connections in the area who could help him find accommodation or even house him if he needed it. For this reason, living on campus would help ease a lot of anxieties that come with moving to a new place.

“I feel like the perks there definitely make it better to be on residents,” said Irwin. “It’s just way more convenient, classes are right across the street, the gym is right there and all my friends.” 

This year, MRU residence services introduced a waitlist for the first time in 10 years. 

“I wasn’t aware of the waitlist at all. I never heard about it, I have a couple friends who are in their second, third year and they’ve never heard about it. I don’t know if it’s just me but I definitely wasn’t aware,” said Irwin. 

MRU campus housing has the capacity to house up to 950 students but Mark Keller, Director of Residence Services, said that they started receiving a high volume of applications that exceeded their capacity. 

“We have seen this year a significantly higher number of students who are looking to live in residence for the fall,” said Keller.

“This is an unprecedented situation for us.”

Mark Keller

MRU is not the only school that is struggling to keep up with the demand for on-campus housing. The University of Calgary (U of C) Residence Services said that before the COVID-19 Pandemic, they typically always had enough space for the number of students applying to live in residence. However, post-COVID, they have seen a dramatic increase in applications for housing. This year alone, the U of C residence waitlist reached 700 applications. 

“We’ve addressed, first and foremost, making sure every possible room is available and ready to go for students,” said Shane Royal, Director of Ancillary Services which encompasses residence services, parking services and conference and event management. 

In an email to the Journal, SAIT said that they are currently at capacity with 1,057 students registered to fill their residence buildings that house both SAIT students and Alberta University of the Arts students. As of Aug. 23, their waitlist was at 130 students. 

Secondary education institutions are suggesting other options for housing

Most universities have started turning students toward off-campus housing options by providing them with suggested rentals. 

“With the competitive rental market in Calgary, we encourage students looking for off-campus accommodation to make sure they are taking appropriate steps to protect themselves,” said SAIT in an email. 

Both MRU and the U of C have said that they are directing students toward suitable alternatives to on-campus housing. However, while this may be an acceptable option, there are still many challenges when it comes to finding off-campus housing for students. 

The average price for a room rental per month in Calgary is between $600 to $1,000 on Kijiji, $500 to $850 on Facebook Marketplace and $750 to $1,300 on Places4Students, a site recommended by MRU. 

“It’s difficult, it’s not ideal, I’m just hoping I can get into residence. I started out as 64 on the waitlist, it’s been about a month and I’ve dropped down to eight so I’m just wishing,” said Jesse Irwin. 

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Isabella West is a fourth-year Journalism student at MRU. She completed her work term over the summer of 2023 at LiveWire Calgary in partnership with the Calgary Journal.