Residence for international students in Canada: Find what’s right for you

By Aneesh Chatterjee

Posted on September 6, 2021
Coming to Canada as an international student can be as challenging as it is rewarding. With such a competitive housing market, it can be difficult to find an affordable place to stay as you complete your studies. This article will give you a sense of residence options both on campus and beyond. The content will discuss the pros and cons of each option, where you can search for housing, and what alternatives are available.

On-campus living

While on-campus residence does exist, it’s not always affordable for many new students in the country. Depending on where you study, living on campus may cost you over $14,000 per year, on top of your tuition fees (a price from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario).

Campus residence has certain benefits, like living near libraries, campus facilities, and cutting down on commute time and costs. Other perks include, quick trips to your dorm room between classes, and late-night study sessions in libraries without worrying about the last bus back home.
Students at campus common area
It’s also easier to immerse yourself in student activities outside the classroom. If you want to join clubs, student associations, volunteer, or take advantage of your professors’ office hours, living on campus makes things slightly more accessible. It’s also a great way to meet people, especially when you’re studying in a university with a large number of students, where making friends outside the classroom can be challenging. On the other hand, living on campus can put a serious dent in your budget. Education debt for international students is already higher than a domestic student’s would be, so it’s important to explore other options.
students on campus

Off-campus living

The obvious benefit to living off-campus is the potential reduction in price. Rent prices vary greatly on location and the number of rooms you plan on getting. For example, renting a single bedroom in a larger residence in downtown Toronto can cost over $1400 a month, but the same can be listed for just above $500 in Mississauga. A one-bedroom or studio apartment downtown can go for $1250, and around $1053 in other parts of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) like Mississauga or Scarborough.
To give you a scope of how prices vary, this breakdown written for University of Toronto students lists the regional differences in rent across the GTA. If you go for a two-bedroom place and find a roommate, you can share the cost of rent and amenities and greatly reduce your financial burden. While the privacy and independence of living alone can seem appealing, roommates are the best and most common way of making your life more affordable and manageable.

Assuming you’re staying in residence for at least eight months—the full fall/winter term—renting a single room outside downtown Toronto, but within the GTA, can still be cheaper than the $14,000 price of some on-campus costs. However, that isn’t the case for every college or university. It’s important to know how expensive residence is at your institution, and compare that with available single-room/studio/two+ bedroom listings in your area.

Websites for off-campus residences:

Kijiji—excellent website for seeking residence and potential roommates.—allows you to sort local postings by your preferred move-in and move-out dates, with many rent costs including all additional bills.,, Craigslist and Padmapper are also excellent sources for students. Take a look at all of these and diversify your search!


A third alternative to living is opting for a homestay. A family offering to share their home with international students is one of the cheapest options out there, with an average price range of $400 to $800 per month. Homestays generally offer meals and a private space for you, along with the added companionship and cultural exposure from your host family.

Host families are screened and approved, and homestays are generally arranged by a professional network—ensuring that this arrangement is safe, professional, and offers good living standards for you. If you’re interested in this kind of accommodation, the Canada Homestay Network is a great place to start.

There are many options available depending on where you live and study. Search through the websites mentioned above and see what budget works best for you. Compare the costs of living off-campus to on-campus, and see which is a better investment. Take advantage of these resources, and don’t be afraid to ask for help!

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