With the start of fall classes a week away, some students at the Université de Moncton have nowhere to live.
The university is facing an "exceptional" housing crisis according to Sophie LeBlanc-Roy, interim co-director of student enrolment management, with all 640 residence beds full for the first time.
The university put out a call for help last week asking if anyone in the community would be willing to rent out a room for the semester, or even just temporarily, to help with the housing shortage.
WATCH | Université de Moncton students desperately searching for apartments
As of last week, 120 students remained on a waiting list for campus housing.
Many students are coming to Moncton for their first fully in-person academic year since the start of the pandemic, and they're finding few affordable options off campus.
Many homes and apartments that were rented to students in the past are now on Airbnb, LeBlanc-Roy said. "We also had apartment buildings around the university that have been sold, and those apartments have increased in price," she said.
The housing crisis comes as other universities in the Maritimes struggle to find places for their students to live. The University of Prince Edward Island recently asked students without a place to live to stay home and defer their studies.
International students impacted
Jean-Sébastien Léger, president of FÉÉCUM, the university's student association, said international students are being disproportionately impacted.
"Most of the students that come from New Brunswick may have people that they know, so they can have roommates, they may have families or close relatives or friends that have a house or spare room in the Moncton area or Shediac," he said.
Many international students are also lower on the waiting list for a place in residence, as they typically wait for the arrival of their study permit before applying. Canadian students may apply for housing as early as the spring.
Université de Moncton has about 4,500 students at its Moncton campus.
Léger said the limited number of apartments available nearby cost considerably more than living on campus and are often unaffordable. The cost of a residence room or apartment-style unit ranges from $390 to $700 per month.
"The best approach that could settle the underlying problem is to create more dorms," he said.
Some availability at other universities
At the University of New Brunswick, there is still space available in "traditional-style" residences, according to spokesperson Heather Campbell. She said spots at the Saint John campus are full with a wait list.
St. Thomas University in Fredericton also has spaces in residence available.
Mount Allison University in Sackville closed its Harper Hall residence for the upcoming academic year for renovations, but added extra spots on campus.
"The University has a small number of spots available," spokesperson Laura Dillman wrote in an email.
Finding temporary housing
After requesting help from the community, Université de Moncton has heard from nearly 40 people willing to rent a room to a student.
Staff members are helping students find lodging and pairing them with people renting rooms. The university has also secured preferred rates from hotels as a temporary option.
LeBlanc-Roy said the university is considering building new campus residences as a long-term solution to address the housing shortage.
"We don't want to be faced with a school year where we tell our students not to come," she said.