A social media post showing rooms with multiple mattresses on the floor has sparked conversations about affordable housing and student living conditions in Windsor.
Students say it doesn't come as a surprise.
Ward 2 Coun. Fabio Costante shared screen shots of the now-deleted rental listing on social media.
In those images, multiple mattresses are crammed into a room, separated by portable cabinets acting as thin walls. They were listed for rent by the bed for $325 a month.
"This is not a unique thing. This is not a novel thing. It's also not a new thing. It's been happening for quite a few years now," Costante said.
"It kind of highlights some of the challenges and cracks in the housing crisis that we're experiencing."
"It's extremely disturbing to see photos of of mattresses on a basement floor and and knowing that this is how some people live in our community."
It's a situation students know only too well.
"As a student, I do understand that financially it's really difficult. We do kind of try to find the cheapest, best option," said Grace Sastre, a nursing student at St. Clair College who lives off campus in a private room. "Despite the fact that it is cheap, I would still say that (listing), it's pretty debatable as to whether that's habitable.
"It just speaks to the fact that there are people who really just need a place to stay and sometimes they might just have to go to such lengths."
Another student told CBC News they had a friend who was one of eight people living in a single room.
Post shows need for housing, and enforcement
Costante said the post highlights a two-pronged issue: Prong one is ensuring more affordable housing is being built. The second is making sure what the city does have is up to code.
"It's not even just the tenants themselves, it's the surrounding neighbourhoods," Costante said. "If a fire happens in one house, that could put at risk other houses on the same block, right?"
"This is really about ensuring residential safety and then creating more affordable housing to provide more access to individuals in our community."
Costante pointed to a pilot program the city started last year that mandates the licence of many types of rentals in wards 1 and 2 aimed at improving property standards.
Craig Roberston, the city's licence commissioner, said that since the program began they have received 722 applications and issued 233 licences.
The remaining applications are either awaiting inspection or there is an issue holding up granting the licence — but the city could not provide a break down between the two figures.
Shetina M. Jones is the associate vice-president of student experience at the University of Windsor. She says the rental posting Costante showed was unfortunate — and speaks to the province's housing crisis.
"It is a reaction, I believe, to the housing crisis in Ontario, so that people would be putting themselves into this situation as it relates to where they're living," Jones said.
Shetina M. Jones is the associate vice-president of student experience at the University of Windsor. (TJ Dhir/CBC)
"We encourage our students to find safe spaces within for the the housing for themselves and we also number one, encourage them to stay on campus. "
Jones said the university is building a new student residence that they hope will be open in 2025. And, she said, they're working with th international student centre to help educate students on what safe and affordable housing looks like.
Ron Seguin is the vice-president of international relations, campus development and student services at St. Clair College.
He said he saw Costante's post and it's a cause for concern. But, he says, the college has 140 open beds dedicated to international students that are sitting empty.
St. Clair College's Quittenton Hall. (TJ Dhir/CBC)
"We're not in any way saying students need to be in these situations. They're choosing to — in some cases, the vast majority do not. But it shouldn't be happening," he said.
The school is also in discussions to build more student housing.
He said international students also receive documents about the types and affordability of housing in the area "months" before they arrive, and are given options like bundling their tuition with housing so it's secured before arrival.