Ryerson student wants more affordable campus housing

Katrice Bent has crunched the numbers and the results aren’t pretty.

The second-year Ryerson student says the rent for her room in residence will cost her $4,380 over the next four months.

“That’s like a semester’s worth of tuition,” she told CBC Toronto.

Here’s the thing, though: Bent won’t actually be living there.

She is headed back to her hometown of Ottawa for the summer, leaving behind an empty room and now, facing a hole in her wallet.

Bent says many others in the building are in the same situation, faced with paying rent for a room they won’t be occupying over the summer months. There are more than a dozen similar complainst on the Facebook page titled Ryerson HOEM Residence Group.

Last fall, Bent was one of hundreds of students who moved into Ryerson’s newest residence, called HOEM, on Jarvis Street. It’s the only Ryerson residence that requires a 52-week term lease, as opposed to the 32-week term lease at other residences.

A room in a three-bedroom apartment at HOEM comes to $18,000 for the term, excluding utilities. If a student rents a two-bedroom unit, it amounts to $19,250.

Bent says she felt she had few other options. HOEM is the only Ryerson residence that accepts upper-year students like her.

“I feel taken advantage of,” she said.

“I knew that it was the full-year lease, and at one point, I actually cancelled my reservation. But it was really hard to find a place in this Toronto market so I just ended up going for it.”

A student’s choice

HOEM is actually a partnership between Ryerson and Canadian Student Communities Inc. (CSCI), with the latter being the owner and operator of the residence.

The company decided on a longer-term lease to offer “a different option to students than traditional on-campus residences,” said Beth Spilchuk, director of residence administration for CSCI.

“A large number of students are choosing to stay in residence over the summer,” she said.

“All students were aware of the annual nature of the contract when applying to live in the building.”

Ryerson University also issued a statement to CBC Toronto.

“Students who are offered a space in HOEM have selected it as one of their preferences. Students who decide to live at HOEM are made aware that it is a 52-week lease and they sign an agreement that acknowledges that,” the statement reads.

Bent acknowledges it was her choice to sign the 52-week lease but says she is still frustrated with the lack of options.

“I would like to see them give us a break. Give us an option for a 32-week lease. The year-long lease is handy for people who are in co-op. But I feel it’s unfair to force us to pay for a space they know many won’t be using.”

Searching for someone to sublet

For students who will be away for the summer, there is the option to sublet their room, but Bent says it’s been a difficult search.

“I have tried to find people on my own but this building is extremely high-priced. When they hear the price, they are like, ‘I can’t afford this.'”

To help the students, HOEM has launched a service called “The Summer Matching Program.”

For a $200 fee, it will help match a student looking to sublet a room with a student looking for summer accommodation in Toronto.

Spilchuk says 290 students living in the residence have joined the program, and are being matched on a first come first serve basis.

So far, there have been 109 matches, with approximately half subletting for the entire summer — from May until August — and the other half opting for a shorter term.

“New bookings are coming in every day and we expect the number of matches to increase,” Spilchuk said.

But Bent isn’t holding her breath. She’s among those on the waiting list, and says she doesn’t personally know anyone who’s gotten a match yet.

She also says she won’t be coming back to the residence next year.

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