Students wonder why U de M accepts so many of them when housing is scarce

Bakr Miloudi had no luck finding a place to live for months until he made a workplace connection. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC - image credit)
Bakr Miloudi had no luck finding a place to live for months until he made a workplace connection. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC - image credit)

Bakr Miloudi is frustrated with the lack of housing for students at the Université de Moncton, and he knows first hand how difficult it is for international students to land an affordable place to live.

Miloudi, who is from Morocco, started his search for an apartment in May, after he learned there would be no available rooms on campus and there was a long waiting list.

"There were more than 300 people for just one residence — it's a shame," he said. "Where am I going to live? On the streets?"

Miloudi's backup plan was to share a single residence room with a friend, Mehdi Fares.

In the end, Miloudi was able to find a place off campus through a campus job connection. Fares knows others are still looking for a place to stay, but he isn't willing to share his small room with someone he doesn't know.

"With a stranger? No, no."

"For 50 per cent for one month, it's not worth it," he said.

Mehdi Fares was prepared to share his residence room with his friend Bakr Miloudi, but said he wouldn't want to share the small space with a complete stranger.
Mehdi Fares was prepared to share his residence room with his friend Bakr Miloudi, but said he wouldn't want to share the small space with a complete stranger.

Mehdi Fares was prepared to share his residence room with his friend Bakr Miloudi, but said he wouldn't want to share the small space with a complete stranger. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC)

The Université de Moncton sent out an email in early September offering a 50 per cent reduction in residence fees and a $30 gift certificate to anyone willing to share their residence room with another student.

Miloudi believes the university has an obligation to ensure students have a place to stay and shouldn't be accepting so many international students without adequate housing.

"I mean come on, I have paid for a room for my peace, for my own space, a private space where I can study, I can live. I am not going to bring someone even though, like, they are humans but it's not our problem," he said.

He said it's up to the university to rent or build a place to house students, especially those who are paying heavy fees.

"We are not necessarily obligating to have the best luxury apartment, just a space, a room where you can be alone, when you can have peace, privacy."

Fares said that had he not found a place on campus he would have moved to a different university in a different city.

Six months to find a room

Rachel Wasso, an international student from Congo, said it took her six months to find a room to rent, but she was expecting to find something within the first three months.

Rachel Wasso had to stay at her brother's apartment for three extra months until she found a place of her own.
Rachel Wasso had to stay at her brother's apartment for three extra months until she found a place of her own.

Rachel Wasso had to stay at her brother's apartment until she found a place of her own. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC)

Wasso stayed at her brother's apartment and "it was really tricky" to find her own place.

She found the market expensive and said international students don't have jobs when they first arrive in Moncton, which makes it difficult for them to pay high rents.

After sharing a space with her brother, Wasso said "it's complicated" for students with different habits and from different cultures to live together.

Monica DeGrâce LeBlanc has seen the housing crisis grow through the last seven years at the University of Moncton.
Monica DeGrâce LeBlanc has seen the housing crisis grow through the last seven years at the University of Moncton.

Monica DeGrâce LeBlanc has seen the housing crisis grow during the last seven years at the Université de Moncton. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC)

Monica DeGrâce LeBlanc, a social work student, is in her seventh year at U de M. She has seen the housing problem grow over the years.

"I am pretty sure we can call this a crisis at this point," she said. "I am worried that there might be a little problem with racism in this because I see that mostly international students are struggling to find a place."

She has seen posters from people in need of a place to stay pop up across the campus, and said being a social work student watching the growing struggle people face "feels really sad."

"If there was a magical solution, I mean, there wouldn't be homeless people in Moncton."

CBC News contacted U de M to ask about the housing situation for students, and what the university is doing to address that challenge.

No one was available for an interview, but in an emailed statement spokesperson Paul Ward said on-campus housing is "at full capacity," and the school is now contacting students on the waiting list to determine how many are still looking.

Jovial Orlachi Osundu said she is worried about the student housing situation as winter approaches.
Jovial Orlachi Osundu said she is worried about the student housing situation as winter approaches.

Jovial Orlachi Osundu says she is worried about the student housing situation as winter approaches. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC)

"The housing situation [is] still to be confirmed because of a waiting list that is not accurate because of the non-communication of students that might have found housing but want to stay on the list," Ward said.

Jovial Orlachi Osundu, president of the International Students Association, said there are no easy answers. Sharing a residence room is not ideal, and students report unaffordability and racism make finding an off-campus apartment or room difficult.

Although the university is trying to find solutions, Orlachi Osundu worries about students becoming homeless after sharing a residence room for a month, and wonders what will happen when more students arrive for the winter semester.