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WES Weekly Roundup February 1, 2024

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World Education Services (WES) is a non-profit social enterprise dedicated to helping international students, immigrants, and refugees achieve their educational and career goals in the United States and Canada. The weekly roundup includes research, stories, and events of interest to the Canadian immigration and settlement community. This content has been created by WES and is reproduced here with their permission, in partnership.

Ottawa to offer low-cost loans for student housing (Globe and Mail)

The Canadian federal government has introduced a new initiative to alleviate the national housing shortage by offering low-cost loans to expand student housing on and off campus. This reform extends access to the $40-billion Apartment Construction Loan Program to postsecondary institutions, private developers, and not-for-profit builders, to increase rental home construction. The government plans to open the application process for this program in Fall, 2024, with the goal of constructing 101,000 new rental homes across Canada by 2031-32. This strategic change aims to increase affordable housing availability for students in cities and small centers with significant student populations. It also comes amidst growing demands for the federal government to address the housing and affordability crisis, including IRCC’s recent restrictions on international student visas to manage system integrity and reduce strain on housing and healthcare. The announcement has been generally well-received by Canada’s postsecondary sector, though concerns remain about the construction pace and financial feasibility for institutions. Steve Orsini, President of the Council of Ontario Universities, highlighted the need for collaborative efforts across government levels to meet housing targets and expedite approvals, especially in high-density areas. Philip Landon from Universities Canada and Katrina King from Colleges and Institutes Canada, praise the initiative, yet express concerns over uncertainties in international student enrolment following recent visa policy changes. Additionally, the Ontario government is mandating housing guarantees from colleges and universities and is working to address issues with recruitment practices in the postsecondary sector.

Toronto’s Housing Crisis: When Immigration and Housing Policies Don’t Align (York University/BMRC)

Housing and affordability continue to be top of mind for many policy makers, as Canada navigates several compounding economic challenges. The increased calls for immigration and housing policy options to be linked, has shed light on several barriers and opportunities faced by Canadians and newcomers alike. Across immigrant communities, accessing equitable and affordable housing may pose significant challenges; research indicates that these diminish along the settlement journey in Canada. However, many refugees and temporary residents are more likely to experience risk with precarious housing. Often uprooting their lives in periods of crisis and arriving with limited assets, resources, and documentation, refugees may encounter significant barriers when adapting to the Canadian housing landscape and regardless of time spent in Canada are less likely to live in affordable housing. In 2021, one in five temporary residents spent half or more of their gross monthly income on housing and the rates are the same for refugees who have lived in Canada for less than five years. Failure to address such concerns further pushes such communities into the risk of insecure accommodation and unsustainable standards of living. A 'one size fits all' approach cannot be the standard and an array of solutions are needed to support equitable and healthy housing options for all. Strategies include:

  • Interjurisdictional convening and planning to ensure effective policies at all levels of government can be explored towards implementation
  • Expanding housing supply allocation to rural communities, in line with increased development in urban centres
  • Scaling investments in government-assisted and low-income housing supports
  • Expand and accelerate foreign credential accreditation processes to facilitate integration of newcomer talent into commensurate fields

Canada hosted more than 1 million international students in 2023 (ICEF)

The number of international students in Canada has risen exponentially in recent years, with a total of 1,028,850 individuals holding active study permits in 2023. This represents a 27 percent increase from 2022 levels and 8 percent higher rate than the projected growth for 2023, according to data from IRCC. Canadian institutions are currently hosting nearly as many students from abroad as the United States, despite the US population being approximately nine times larger than Canada's. Ontario, the country's most populous province, has held the largest share and has seen the most accelerated growth of international students among provinces. Currently, Ontario hosts roughly 51 percent of the student population in Canada, followed by British Columbia (19.5) and Quebec (11.5). The surge in Ontario primarily, has largely been due to the increase in college programming through Public College-Private Partnerships (PCPP). With the announcement of a two-year cap on new study permits, the number of approved permits is expected to drop by 35 percent in 2024 compared to 2023 levels, and this cap will be allocated based on the population of each province.

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