The Best Cities to Invest in Student Housing in Canada - 2020 Edition

Monday, March 8, 2021

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2020 has been an unprecedented year that has impacted the entire housing industry in Canada. has reviewed how these changes have affected the off-campus housing market and completed our annual comparison of the top Canadian cities to invest in student housing.  


Although vacancy rates have increased slightly across the country, the onset of colleges and universities planning for students to return to in-class learning again, leads us to believe there is an improving post-pandemic rental industry on the horizon.


Nova Scotia – Halifax

On our list again, Halifax, Nova Scotia is home to over 400,000 people on the eastern coast of Canada.

  • The vacancy rate in Halifax was 1.9% in 2020
  • The average rental rate is $1,170, a 2% increase from 2019


Dalhousie University has released its plans for beginning to bring students back safely for in-person learning. They plan that by this fall, 1,600 students will take part in some in-person instruction and hope to add an additional 2,500 students to that number by the winter term.


Ontario – Kitchener, Cambridge & Waterloo

Home for schools like Wilfrid Laurier University, University of Waterloo and Conestoga College, Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo makes our list for the second year.

  • The vacancy rate in Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo is 2.1% as of 2020
  • The average rental rate is $1,221, a 4% increase from 2019


At Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, staff has began looking ahead to the Fall 2021 semester. The university is preparing for a return to campus and offer as many undergrad and grad student courses in person as possible (keeping within public health guidelines).


British Columbia – Victoria

Victoria made our list for the first time last year and again this year. Although the vacancy rate increased a few percent, Victoria still has a need for affordable rental housing.

  • Victoria’s vacancy rate was 2.2% in 2020
  • The average rental rate is $1,275, an increase of 3.3% from 2019


The University of Victoria plans on providing more in-person learning opportunities for the 6,500 students spread out across seven summer terms. Although no mention has been made for Fall 2021, students are hopeful to be learning in-person again soon.


Ontario – Sudbury

Making the list for the first time this year is Sudbury, Ontario. Home to over 100,00 people; it is the largest city in Northern Ontario.

  • The vacancy rate in Sudbury was 2.5% in 2020
  • The average rental rate is $1,207, an increase of 2.7% from 2019


Cambrian College released its plans and approach for reopening and students returning to campus. Their goal to “return to an innovative new normal” is projected sometime in 2021. It will include key features such as campus events and activities fully resuming, varsity and intermural sports returning, and food services resuming to pre-pandemic capacity (new best practices will be implemented).


Ontario – Peterborough

Peterborough, Ontario joins the list as a new city to consider investing in student housing.

  • The vacancy rate in Peterborough was 2.6% in 2020
  • The average rental rate is $1,191, a 9.1% increase from 2018


Another academic institution that has released its planned phased approach to returning to campus is Trent University. The third phase, projected for Fall 2021, begins an incremental return to in-class program delivery.


Ontario – St. Catharines/Niagara

Remaining practically unchanged from last year, the Niagara vacancy rate has continued to make the area a prime location to invest in off-campus housing.

  • The vacancy rate was 2.7% in 2020
  • The average rental rate is $1,075, an increase of 5.6% from 2019


Brock University, located in St. Catharines, has announced its plans for the Fall 2021 semester. The university is planning on a significant return to campus, including as many on-campus courses as possible withing public health guidelines. They hope to include graduate seminars and smaller classes in on-campus learning.


Ontario – Windsor

Over the years, Windsor has continually been an area in need of affordable off-campus housing for students, and this year is no different.

  • The vacancy rate in Windsor was 3.6% in 2020
  • The average rental rate is $1,027, an increase of 5.3% from 2019


St. Clair College has posted a plan for live and in-person classes beginning the Fall 2021 semester. The college’s main priority is keeping their community safe and strive to have a face-to-face, enriching atmosphere restored by late Summer.


Ontario – Ottawa

Making the list again this year is Canada’s capitol city, Ottawa, Ontario.

  • The vacancy rate in Ottawa increased to 3.9% in 2020
  • The average rental rate increased 4.5% to $1,358


Algonquin College in Ottawa has also begun planning to expand on-campus learning for the Fall 2021 semester. Factoring in all outside influences, they hope to have an update to share with the community by early summer.


*The above data reflects vacancy and average rental rates from 2019 to 2020. The average rental rates are based on two-bedroom apartments.


SEE ALSO:  The Best Cities To Invest In Student Housing In Canada – 2019 Edition

The Team