Moving away from home for the first time can be a whirlwind. Because of its status as a university town, Sackville is a popular spot for student renters, who are often living away from home for the first time. As a result, many of these inexperienced students may not be aware of the ins and outs of renting homes and its potential difficulties.
“Learning your rights as a tenant and everything like that is a whole new ball game that I don’t think we really learn about,” said Racheal Hanakowski, a Mt. A graduate and now current student. Hanakowski signed a lease that was in effect from May 2020 to May 2021. In June, Hanakowski had to resign from her lease because she could not afford it. She has been looking for a place to live since then. This has resulted in her living with various friends for the month of September. Hanakowski noted that as of next week, she will have nowhere to go.
Hanakowski has a difficult time with stairs because of her disability. She said that there are “three apartment buildings in town that have elevators. Finding somewhere that’s accessible and that I can also afford, doesn’t seem to exist here.” The availability of affordable and accessible housing options in Sackville does not meet the needs of student tenants.
The lack of housing in Sackville has forced students to move to neighbouring locations such as Amherst, Moncton, Dieppe, and more. Moving outside of Sackville is not an option for those who lack transportation to commute to Mt. A. This also places a social burden on students. “It’s really hard to make friends,” said Mareile Kurth, an international student from Germany who is also facing these issues.
An additional concern brought up by many students is that in order to find housing for next year, they must sign leases very early in the year. This can be owed to the limited number of places to rent in Sackville. An anonymous Mt. A student states, “You need to start looking in September, October to have lots of options. You can leave it more last minute, but it might be harder to get exactly what you’re looking for.”
Kurth was accepted into Mt. A in April, and started looking for housing in May. Two weeks before her arrival, she was still without a home. She decided to be a sub-tenant with her landlord. “In Germany it’s just normal that you start looking maybe two or three months in advance, and that normally works out pretty well,” Kurth explained.
International students can be placed at a disadvantage when searching for places to rent in Sackville because they may not be accepted into the university until a few months before the school year. Kurth explains that although she probably could have lived in residence, it is just not affordable.
“How are you supposed to know what you want to do for the next year?” Hanakowski said. Signing a lease a year before the next school year is unreasonable; a student’s economic and social situation can change within this time period. Hanakowski continued, saying, “But I think that speaks to the wider climate of our economic crisis right now”.
Another reason why finding housing may be difficult, is because finding places to rent in Sackville that are in good condition, and that students feel safe in, is hard. Students explained that they reported numerous issues like faulty WiFi to their landlords that are continuously ignored. This is particularly difficult because students are dependent on WiFI for their online classes. A Mt. A student reported that their landlord has been “just showing up whenever and walking into our homes.” “People had mold in their apartments, the landlord does not do anything about it which is a serious health problem,” Hanakowski explains.
“They know that people are going to rent regardless, because they need somewhere to live. We have to go to school, and we have to find somewhere to live,” Hanakowski suggested in response to why it may be easy for some landlords to take advantage of students.
A Mt. A student reported that the Residential Residency Tribunal located on the University’s website has been somewhat beneficial. They mentioned that when they did not have Wi-Fi, the service provided them with solutions to this. The student reported that they were part of the External Affairs committee that worked to create an off-campus handbook that includes information on tenant rights.
Hanakowski explains that these resources for students are not advertised enough on campus. She suggested that seminars on tenant rights and responsibilities should be held by the university, along with discussing how to find places to rent.
Many Mt. A students have been struggling to find housing or with advocating their needs to their landlord. Hanakowski says that there is not enough affordable housing subsidized by the government. People should continue to advocate for more affordable and accessible housing. Hanakowski says, “How are you supposed to be successful in your studies if you’re worrying about where you’re living. You can’t have both. You need to have housing first.”