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International students studying in Canada are more likely to live in unsuitable housing than their Canadian counterparts, with Indian students living in unsuitable housing more than any other source country, according to Statistics Canada.

The findings from the 2021 Census of Population compare the housing conditions of international students to those of Canadian-born students across various municipalities.

In Canada’s ten municipalities with the most international students, the number of international students living in unsuitable housing ranged from 25% to 63%, which is 13% to 45% higher than Canadian-born students aged 18 to 24.

“Students from India were more likely to live in unsuitable housing compared with those from other countries. In Brampton and Surrey, the municipalities with the largest shares of Indian students, the proportions of international students in unsuitable housing were the highest,” reads the report.

Suitable housing is determined by the National Occupancy Standard, which specifies criteria such as a maximum of two people per bedroom and that non-couple household members aged 18 or over should have separate bedrooms. Other criteria are based on age, sex, and relationships among household members.

International students living in Toronto have told horror stories about waiting in line to use the bathroom or cook their food, and having to use shared amenities, with three students living in each room. The students still considered themselves lucky, for just having a house to live in among Canada’s rental supply shortage. Canada’s rental vacancy hit a record low of 1.5% in 2023.

Canada’s three largest municipalities—Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver—had the highest numbers of international students in 2021. Approximately 31% of international students in the country were concentrated in these cities, with 44,670 in Toronto, 43,430 in Montreal, and 17,030 in Vancouver.

The remainder of the top ten most populated municipalities accounted for 25% of the country’s international students, while the remaining 44% were scattered across the rest of the country.

Among Canada’s top ten most populated municipalities, Brampton and Surrey had the largest share of students living in unsuitable housing, at 63% and 61%, respectively. In comparison, only 20.8% of Canadian-born students in Brampton and 16.6% in Surrey lived in unsuitable housing.

Vancouver and Calgary had the lowest rates of international students living in unsuitable housing among the top ten populated municipalities, at 29% and 25%, respectively. In Vancouver, 15.4% of Canadian-born students aged 18 to 24 lived in unsuitable housing; in Calgary, the rate was 9.1%.

India and China were the top two source countries for international students in Canada.

In Montreal, 77% of international students from India lived in unsuitable housing, followed by 66.1% in Toronto and 53.3% in Vancouver. In contrast, Chinese international students faced significantly lower rates of unsuitable housing: 19.5% in Montreal, 16.1% in Toronto, and 15.1% in Vancouver. For international students from other countries, the rates were 20.6% in Montreal, 31.3% in Toronto, and 27% in Vancouver.

While the data was collected from the 2021 Census of Population, the report suggests that the numbers could have worsened since then, as the number of international students in Canada has grown substantially. 

The Liberals imposed a two-year cap on international students, set to reduce the number by 35%, following rampant fraud dating back to 2017.

The rate of international students seeking asylum in Canada previously doubled since 2018.

Half of Ottawa’s homeless shelters are occupied by asylum seekers and immigrants.