'Glut' of student housing in Waterloo has landlords seeing red
Published Friday, August 21, 2015 6:17PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, August 21, 2015 6:53PM EDT
Heading into the new school year, Amy Campagnolo decided to move in with some friends,
Even though many people she knows are choosing to live in the student towers popping up around Waterloo, her group intentionally chose a house – in part because of their experience in an on-campus apartment.
“I could hear everything everybody else was doing,” said the Wilfrid Laurier University student.
“It was loud. You had no privacy.”
While Campagnolo’s situation was the norm in Waterloo only a few years ago – when students were spreading into nearly every part of the city due to a rental shortage – people in the student housing industry say it’s more and more becoming the exception.
A report that went to city councillors in June claimed that the city contains more than 32,000 student housing units, with a further 7,000 planned.
That’s despite fewer than 31,000 students in the city seeking off-campus housing.
Rob Jackson says he’s already felt a major shift to a market less favourable to landlords, and worries about what will happen once even more student housing comes online.
“This isn’t the cash cow that people think it is,” he said in an interview.
Jackson rents out a converted house to students. He expected the income from that house to pay for an early retirement, but now says that’s unlikely to happen.
In recent years, he’s lost one of the five bedrooms he rented out – and now, he says, he might have to lower the rent just to attract tenants.
“Utilities have increased. Property taxes have increased. I should be getting two per cent more than what I’m getting right now,” he said.
“(Students) know that they can wait until the very end and start negotiating down.”
Joyce Klaver, who works for property management firm Waterloo Off-Campus Housing, says she’s seen the same effects from the sudden “glut” of student housing.
“It’s gone from mom-and-pop organizations to the conglomerates,” she said.
With more buildings going up and more landlords getting into the game, Klaver expects landlords to not only ask for less money, but start offering eight-month lease terms in a bid to ensure their properties are rented.
Those changes, she says, will hurt individual landlords like Jackson more than ones who have bigger portfolios spanning multiple cities.
“I see a hard time coming for the average person out there in the student housing business,” she said.
“If someone asked me ‘Should I get into the student market?’ (I’d say) emphatically ‘no.’”
Jackson says he wants to see the city do more to manage the supply of student housing.