On January 29th, 2024 the Honourable Sean Fraser, the Federal Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities, announced a policy change that has the potential to positively impact student housing. The announcement can be found here. Colleges and Universities will now be granted access to the Apartment Construction Loan Program, which will allow post-secondary institutions to receive low-cost federal loans to construct on and off campus student residences.
CSA has long advocated for affordable and more accessible student housing by decreasing dependence on public-private partnerships and instead giving colleges more accountability for the construction and control of the student housing stock. In fact, our 2023/2024 Issues Brief recommended the following:
“Colleges… retain control over their housing stock. Private developers will not develop affordable housing because it does not reach their acceptable levels of profitability (Black, 2014; Chadenga et al., 2017). Ideally, colleges fill this gap by developing their own housing stock; however, the current trend is toward the 3Ps (public-private partnerships) because of their expertise and efficiency (Pillai et al., 2021). A compromise is having turnkey projects, where developers take on the risk and manage the design and construction of residences, selling ownership to colleges upon completion.”
We are pleased to see this recommendation reflected in the policy revisions outlined by Minister Fraser. Below we have highlighted key points about the new policy made by the Minister:
Extend access to the Apartment Construction Loan Program to include student residences- this program provides low cost financing through the federal government to build the homes we need at prices people can afford.
With access to the Apartment Construction Loan Program, Colleges and Universities will be able to build student residences both on and off campus.
However, Colleges and Universities often do not have extensive construction branches. As a result, eligibility will also be extended to non-profit builders and private developers, who will also be able to build student residences both on and off campuses.
This change will have a large impact because Universities and Colleges often own large amounts of land throughout their city; this federal loan will make it easier for them to build quickly.
This change will also, more broadly, relieve pressure on the housing market in University and College cities by removing competitors (students) from the market. This has the opportunity to decrease housing costs in College and University cities across the country for families as well.
We also commend the Minister for recognizing the importance of the student experience- namely, that students across the post-secondary sector have been facing inaccessible and unaffordable housing options, resulting in expensive and long commutes, unsafe or insecure living conditions, and/or paying rent that far exceeds financial means. These conditions negatively affect many students' mental and physical health, and academic performance.
We are encouraged to see these changes announced, and hope that Ontario’s colleges can soon begin to construct affordable and accessible student housing for all!
Black, J. (2014). The financing & economics of affordable housing development: Incentives and disincentives to private-sector participation (No. 224). https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/handle/1807
Chadenga, N., Piglicaelli, D., Gross, A., &White, R. (2017). Privatization & affordable student housing. York University. https://files.cargocollective.com/c269960/York-Final-Report-workshop--Privatiza
Pillai, A. K., Vieta, M. A., & Sotomayor, L. (2021). University student housing as business proposition and entrepreneurial activity: The Canadian Case. Housing Policy Debate. https://doi.org/10.1080/10511482.2021.1883703