It took Chamanpreet Kaur three months to find an apartment in Brampton, and she wasn't searching for something newly built or with extra bathrooms.
The York University international student finally found a place, but it's a basement and she has two roommates. Together, they pay $2,000 plus $140 for utilities.
Kaur says by the time she pays her share of rent she's left cutting back on basic necessities, including her groceries.
"That's the worst part," she told CBC Toronto.
"Only friends and family are keeping us in high spirits, apart from that it is very stressful."
Chamanpreet kaur is an international student living in Brampton. It took her three months to find an affordable basement apartment, and she says she still has to pick between basic necessities after paying her rent. (Submitted by Chamapreet Kaur/CBC)
Kaur says decided to move to Brampton with her roommates in hopes of finding an affordable place closer to the Indian community. Now, less than three months after moving in, she is already looking for a cheaper apartment closer to campus because if she stays in Brampton she knows she'll be stuck dealing with high prices.
Rents across Canada reached record highs last month, and Brampton had the highest year-over-year increase of anywhere in the country, according to Rentals.ca.
In Brampton, which Statistics Canada puts at among the fastest-growing cities nationwide, the report found rent for a one-bedroom apartment was up by 29 per cent in August from a year prior, and up by 25.7 per cent for a two-bedroom apartment. That's compared to a national average increase of 8.8 per cent.
Elsewhere in the GTA, places like Toronto, Mississauga, and Scarborough saw rent increases ranging from 10 to 15 per cent. Toronto continues to top the regional list with an average rent of $2,620 for one bedroom and $3,413 for two bedrooms.
"Demand is absolutely going out of the roof," said Raman Dua, founder and CEO of Save Max Real Estate.
He attributes the city's growth in part to the influx of new immigrants, of which the federal government says it intends to bring in nearly 500,000 annually until 2025. Brampton, Dua says, is now perceived as a "city of immigrants, with proximity to Toronto, that has jobs."
Mounting pressure on the rental market is set to be the biggest challenge for housing across the Greater Toronto Area, but especially in Brampton, says Raman Dua, founder and CEO or Save Max Real Estate. (Saloni Bhugra/CBC)
That makes it an ideal market for international students, like Kaur, who can't afford to rent an apartment in Toronto and are drawn to the Brampton community.
Dua says mounting pressure on the rental market is set to be the biggest challenge for housing across the Greater Toronto Area, but especially in Brampton. He says the city is not prepared to meet current demand, let alone future demand.
In March, the Brampton City Council endorsed a pledge to build 113,000 homes by 2031, as part of a provincial plan to build 1.5 million homes.
"Population growth is outpacing housing availability at twice the rate.," Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said at the time of the endorsement. "The status quo is broken."
Two months later, in May, the Region of Peel Council released its own affordable housing report, saying only 19 per cent of the region's housing needs are being met. To meet the remaining demand would require an extra $50 billion over 10 years, as well as $4 billion to maintain the current 19 per cent levels, the report said.
Dua attributes that in part to the fact that people who are qualified to buy a house are instead renting due to high interest rates and the current prime lending rate of 7.2 per cent.
"The stress test is killing them," he said, so they rent.
That's a problem because "supply hasn't kept up," said Jason Mercer, chief market analyst with the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board.
"On the one side you've got competition between renters pushing up average rents, and on the other side you have property owners who are facing increased costs and are looking to recoup at least some of those through higher rents as well," he said.
During Kaur's three-month-long search, she says she had to bid for the apartments she saw that met her needs. But the bidding pushed the price up by several hundred dollars, she said, pricing her out and forcing her to start over.
"They're trying to put an offer... even for a basement and [landlords] get like 15 or 20 offers within an hour," Dua said.
He says the situation is so dire than in some cases he's seeing "10 to 15 students living in one apartment."
LISTEN | Two international students, living in packed units with strangers, share their student housing sagas :
"Policy needs to translate into actual shovels in the ground," Mercer said. "A lot of that has to do with speeding up the approval process and seeing all types of housing coming online."
Dua agrees. He says there needs to be a focus on construction cost and labour shortage, or else people will leave to live in more affordable cities outside Ontario — even though other regions are facing their own housing crunches.