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The basics
Canada: Student Accommodation - Must read

International students guide to finding accommodation in Canada

International students going to study in Canada need to find a place to live as quickly as possible. Here we look at the different types of accommodation on offer and where you can go to for help and information.

student accommodation

Finding student accommodation can be a challenge today as key study destinations are experiencing a shortage in university and private rental accommodation. Finding a place to live is top of every international student’s list of priorities. Here we look at the types of accommodation on offer and give you guidance on how to find it.


Types of accommodation in Canada


On-campus accommodation

Many students choose to live on-campus in halls/dorms (large buildings with many student rooms) or townhouses (detached houses where three to six students live). In both these types of accommodation, students share a kitchen and living space with other students. On-campus housing is referred to as ‘residence’ or sometimes ‘rez’ for short.


One of the great things about being on campus is that you’re never too far from your lecture halls, which makes getting to classes on time much easier. Everything you need from shops, to laundry services and restaurants are all on campus making it a very convenient option.  



Internet and other utilities will be included as part of your rent which you’ll likely pay on a per-semester basis.


As a rough guide to how much it costs, here are some examples of on-campus accommodation options offered by various Canadian universities:

Totem Park at University of British Columbia

Single room with private bathroom and mandatory meal plan, internet and utilities included = CAD 7,226 (Jan-April)

Victoria College at McGill University

Single room with full bathroom and meal plan = CAD 18,457 per year

Chestnut Residence at University of Toronto

Single room with bathroom and a meal plan = CAD 23,007 per academic year

*correct at time of writing


Off-campus accommodation in Canada


Although some universities will offer on-campus accommodation beyond the first year, in the second year, students will usually share a house or apartment off-campus with other students to share the cost. You’ll be sharing with three to six other people and share a kitchen, bathroom and living space.


It’s important to note that finding accommodation off-campus can be really difficult and there are particularly busy times when lots of other students will be looking too. So, make sure you plan in advance to avoid disappointment and unnecessary stress. If you’re concerned about finding accommodation, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your university. You can find information online or by speaking to someone from the university housing team.


With the increase in the cost of accommodation in recent times, it’s suggested you budget around CAD 1,500-4,000 per month for housing that is off campus but of course this depends on your expectations and budget.


Below are the approximate living costs for 3-bedroom apartments in different Canadian cities:

Toronto – CAD 3,864

Vancouver – CAD 4,552

Ottawa – CAD 2,883

Montreal – CAD 2,520

Edmonton – CAD 2,062

Calgary – CAD 2,794

*correct at time of writing             

Source: Numbeo


You can find more information on our ‘How much does it cost to study in Canada’ article.




There is also the option to live as part of a homestay where you live with a host family in Canada. On top of an initial placement fee of CAD 200, students can expect to pay a monthly fee of CAD 400-850 per month in return for meals and a room within that family’s home.


You’ll also be gaining the added bonus of participating in activities with that host, improving your English and learning about the culture, all of which are valuable experiences. To organise a homestay, check out the Canada Homestay Network to enquire about possible arrangements.    



How to find accommodation in Canada


The first place you should go to when looking for accommodation in Canada is the housing office of your university. They can help you with a number of things:

  • Finding the right location
  • How to understand rental agreements
  • The services on offer
  • The facilities nearby.



Other students are also an excellent source of information and advice. Third year students have been through the process and have lots of tips and advice they can offer you. Connect with them on the different social media platforms available.


There are also good online resources such as:


You need to decide if you’re looking for furnished or unfurnished accommodation, if utilities are included in the rent and if you must pay a non-refundable deposit. All this new language can feel a little confusing. We have some useful English language for finding accommodation to help you navigate the new vocabulary.


Lastly, when you’re looking for private accommodation it’s important to be careful to avoid falling victim to any scams in the area. Never transfer money online to a ‘landlord’ without first viewing the property. It’s tempting to secure accommodation as soon as possible and you may feel pressure to give a deposit without first seeing the property. If you are asked to do this, please know that this is not legal and that you will lose your money. As long as you are aware of this, you will be ok.


You can find more top tips for finding student accommodation in our article.