A Practical Guide to Accommodation in Toronto

By Joseph McCabe (University of Toronto, Canada)

There are four main options for accommodation for exchange students in Toronto: University Halls, Private students’ residence, student co-op housing, and Private renting. I opted to go for a private residence on the edge of campus, which was perfect for me, but I will talk about that later. I will give some general advice first; then, I will go through each of these (there will be a sentence overview after each one if you don’t want to read the whole thing) and finish with what I would advise to make sorting accommodation as stress-free as possible.

Prices. Accommodation in Toronto is expensive. The current average market rent for a 1-bedroom apartment is $1,446 a month (April 2022). This also takes into consideration the whole of Toronto, but campus is in the downtown so if you want a place close to St. George Campus expect to pay a pretty penny. Having said that there are some options for students to get a deal that, whilst it will not be Manchester prices, won’t make you feel like you’re spending two student loans on rent. The first option here, is not one of these but I threw it in for the interest value.

University Halls

I would not recommend even entertaining the idea of going to these. As always, price is the first consideration and UofT halls fail miserably on this one. ‘Full year’ prices start at $11,016 and can go up to $21,567, which is just extortionate for 8 months’ rent – who wants to pay $2696 a month? The cheaper rents are also likely to be shared rooms too, so not only is it above market rates, but you will also have to share the bedroom you’re paying for.

On top of this, the majority of the students in these halls are first years who, in Canada, are a year younger than first years in Manchester because many come when they are 17. A 20/21-year-old living with a 17-year-old may feel a bit weird. If you think university halls are the life of the party, you would also be mistaken. The first year in UofT is made quite stressful because a certain portion of the students will be kicked out at the end of the year, so they tend to be slightly more studious than their Manchester counterparts.

However, there are some benefits to university halls living so if I have not put you off already and you are still keen, you can look forward to a few benefits. Firstly, the actual buildings are often castle-like in architecture. It really would feel like living in Hogwarts. Whilst there are a few newer builds that are less impressive, nothing is as architecturally bad as Oak House or Owens Park so you will be safe from the PTSD of our first year accommodations.  If you really still want this, I recommend trying to get into St. Michaels, Victoria or Trinity colleges – but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Here’s the website to compare them: https://studentlife.utoronto.ca/task/compare-u-of-t-residences/

Overall for university residences: Paying extortionate prices to live with stressed out children in castles.

Private Students’ Residence

This is the option I went with as it took all the stress out of dealing with landlords and worrying about bill paying. A good website to get you started with looking at different ones is here: https://offcampushousing.utoronto.ca . With all the options on there it can be overwhelming so here’s a list of a few that I know others have gone to before.

Tartu College: (My one!)

Price: 1. Cheapest

Amenities: 3. Basic (Laundry room, cafeteria, mail service, parking, bag storage, very basic furnishing)

Staff: Friendly (Students on front desk so the opportunity for a job, with Estonians running back office because it has Estonian links)

Location: 1. Perfect (joint first as it is across the road from campus)

Harrington Housing: (popular with single semester exchanges)

Price: 2. variable but can be second cheapest

Amenities: 2. Decent (Laundry room, mail service, Gym, luxurious furnishing, a pool table)

Location: 3. Still downtown but further form campus

CampusOne: The posh one

Price: 3. Very expensive, at a minimum of twice Tartu

Amenities: 1. Everything you could want (Laundry, mail, gym, luxurious furnishing, games room with so many things, common spaces, social events, all day dining, Sky Lounge, yoga studio, movie theatre, apparently, it’s also feng shui compliant!)

Location: 1. Joint first as it is Across from campus but the other side of campus to Tartu, which is closer to central downtown but further from Greekrow (explained in another of my posts)

Overall for private student residences: Probably your best option as it just takes a lot of the stress out of choosing

Student Co-op Housing

This can be very hit or miss. I have friends who have had a great time with hosting parties, making co-op friends and living in a house that’s more similar to what you might expect from Manchester. Others have had awful experiences with no furniture, cockroach infestations and faulty heating systems. It is also very hard to get into because all the places get taken up very quickly and are not re-leased on an academic-yearly-basis, which limits room space even more.

However, it is very cheap. This is the cheapest housing in Toronto (except maybe living in a fraternity). You could even be paying 2/3 of Tartu College which is the next cheapest, so it is definitely worth considering. It is a non-profit, student-led organisation and its sole purpose is to provide students with cheap housing which is why they can charge such low rent.

The houses themselves do vary, but they are mostly huge Victorian homes that are within walking distance of campus so it could be the ideal place to spend the year. I did apply but they were full. Having listened to the stories from those who do live in them, I would say it is a gamble. It could be the best time, it could be the worst.

Here’s their website: https://campus.coop

Private Renting

This puts you at the mercy of the market and Toronto’s housing market is insane. To stay near campus, you will be paying big money but, I guess, you only live once. There is just too many options to go through here and you can get anything from the basement of a granny in the outer city (one of my friends actually did this), to sharing on of the few actual houses left in downtown Toronto (these are beautiful).

Here’s a link to university approved private renters: https://offcampushousing.utoronto.ca

Otherwise there are a host of websites that can help you, this is a couple I heard were good:

https://www.nestpick.com/student-accommodation/toronto/

https://www.kijiji.ca

Still stuck? Here are some more ideas:

My overall Recommendation

Just go for Tartu. It is basic, but it is relatively cheap, full of exchange students, right next to campus, clean and whilst it may not be the most lively place itself, it is right next to Greekrow.

(P.S. My apologies if you are living in the future and my prices are off but I’m sure my advice will still be applicable and the links should still work on your Iphone 57s)

Photo by Harsch Shivam on Pexels.com

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