Colleges and universities in Canada will be able to apply this autumn for low-interest loans to build more student housing.
Many of the schools will likely be facing limits on the number of international students they can welcome due to pending caps on study permits.
“Canada needs more student housing and we’re going to help build it,” Housing Minister Sean Fraser announced on Monday, Jan. 29.
The plan is to allow post-secondary institutions in Canada to apply under the Apartment Construction Loan Program, as the Rental Construction Financing Initiative has been rebranded since late November last year.
Ottawa pumped another $15 billion into the Apartment Construction Loan Program last autumn, topping up the total funding available to $40 billion, but is not putting in additional money into it now to fund more student residences.
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International students have been blamed at least in part for Canada’s housing crisis which has seen the average Canadian rent jump to a record high of $2,178 per month as of December last year.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) response to the housing crisis has been to announce there will be a cap on the number of on study permits, effectively lowering the number of new international students coming to Canada.
“The cap is expected to result in approximately 364,000 approved study permits, a decrease of 35 per cent from 2023,” Immigration Minister Marc Miller has reportedly said. “In the spirit of fairness, we are also allocating the cap space by province, based on population.”
Under the proposed cap on study permits, the provinces and territories will each have a limit on their ability to welcome new international students.
Those proposed limits will allow some provinces to increase their international student population while dramatically cutting it in other provinces, including Ontario.
The proposed cap on study permits was announced the same week as the eligibility requirements for Post-Graduation Work Permits (PGWP) were changed. Under the new criteria, students attending some private colleges might not qualify for PGWPs upon graduation.
“Starting Sept. 1, international students who begin a study program that is part of a curriculum licensing arrangement will no longer be eligible for a post-graduation work permit upon graduation,” notes the IRCC.
“Under curriculum licensing agreements, students physically attend a private college that has been licensed to deliver the curriculum of an associated public college. These programs have seen significant growth in attracting international students in recent years, though they have less oversight than public colleges and they act as a loophole with regards to post-graduation work permit eligibility.”
The immigration minister reiterated in January that international students are vital to Canada and enrich communities but insisted Ottawa has an obligation to ensure that they have access to the resources they need for an enriching academic experience.
“In Canada, today, this isn’t always the case,” he said. “Today, we are announcing additional measures to protect a system that has become so lucrative that it has opened a path for its abuse.
Faced with the prospect of caps on study permits, the provinces have pledged to improve their oversight of the treatment of international students but have also warned Ottawa’s proposed cap could lead to the closure of some colleges and universities.
British Columbia’s minister of post-secondary education, Selina Robinson is among those provincial politicians who have vowed to take a suite of actions to improve quality controls for international students.
BC Post-Secondary Education Minister Bemoans The Lack Of Student Housing In Province
She told CBC Radio she is appalled by the actions of some of the province’s post-secondary institutions who recruit students with promises of guaranteed housing and in-class instruction.
“The student does all the right things and they arrive and there is no housing, there are no supports, and in fact I’ve heard cases where there is no classroom,” Robinson reportedly said.
“We’re going to be requiring much more accountability by these private institutions.”
Ontario’s advanced education minister, Jill Dunlop, has agreed.
“We know some bad actors are taking advantage of these students with false promises of guaranteed employment, residency, and Canadian citizenship,” she reportedly said. “We’ve been engaging with the federal government on ways to crack down on these practices.”
Across the country, some colleges and universities are bracing for an economic blow as the number of international students, all of whom pay higher tuition fees than Canadian students, drops.
Colleges and Institutes Canada (CIC) is worried about how the caps on study permits will affect post-secondary institutions.
“This approach, characterized by Minister Miller as a ‘blunt instrument,’ will have far-reaching consequences across the sector, especially in key regions, including the possibility of layoffs, closures and increased tuition fees – all of which will inevitably affect both Canadian and international students,” the CIC reportedly stated.
“Chronic public underinvestment in post-secondary education puts Canada’s world-class system at risk. Without significant reinvestment, we risk compounding the challenges facing Canada’s economy and society, especially in the context of fierce global competition.”