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Montreal promises focus on housing

by Milos Kovacevic September 30, 2014

An update on the ongoing effort to court International students.

Concordia’s Housing and Job Bank (HoJo) is saluting a recent Montreal report calling for better housing as one of its key priorities in attracting and retaining international students.

The report, titled L’urgence d’agir pour attirer et retenir les meilleurs étudiants internationaux à Montréal, reiterated the rising importance of foreign students as a potential demographic resource for skilled and integrated citizens in a globalized world where mobile human capital is to be courted and enticed.

HoJo is joined in its statement of support by the L’unité de travail pour l’implantation de logement étudiant (UTILE), an organization promoting co-operative student-run housing in the city.

Off-Campus HoJo Assistant Kyle McLoughlin agrees the rector’s report is a start, but says the universities and government have their work cut out for them. In his professional experience, the difficulties for international students come from both being unaware of the resources available to aid them and not knowing their legal rights.

“International students pay an average of 20 per cent higher than the median rent in Montreal,” said McLoughlin of the existence of a ‘predatory market’ of landlords making a business from vulnerable international students.

“We see at HoJo an endless amount of students who are taken advantage of and who are asked for [such unlawful things as] illegal deposits, they’re asked for illegal personal information like photocopies of their passports [or] driver’s licenses, or cases where landlords refuse to rent to non-Canadian students,” McLoughlin said. Corporate entities sponsoring workers also frequently cross the line in their demands.

For McLoughlin, one particular vector of abuse is the avenue available to Quebec landlords in demanding a guarantor in for tenants they suspect of bad faith or financial insolvency, a normally sensible enough option.

“However, many companies will require that the guarantor be somebody from Quebec or from Canada, and if you’re an international student who doesn’t have any family or friend connections to the city, it can be exceptionally complicated,” McLoughlin said.

“The university can do anything it wants to in its ability to act as the official voice in these matters, but at the moment they don’t,” he said of the university’s ability to alleviate the situation, suggesting a streamlined form system to confirm student status, which confirms financial stability, as it is one of the requirements for studying in Canada to begin with.

Justice, when available, can be glacial. “The law only favours somebody to the extent that it’s enforced,” he said of the Regie du logement’s newest figures which point out wait times that stretch up to a full year. For many international students, they’ll sooner receive their degree and move on then receive a resolution to their problem from the overwhelmed Regie. “It can take so much time [to exercise their rights] that the students don’t find it worth it.”

“What we would like to see is a more effective, more streamlined Regie du logement, a body that enforces the rules and regulations that exist in Quebec, and a sort of focus towards creating a better student housing situation.”

He said HOJO and UTILE’s mission, in addition to providing legal and informative aid, is also to get the information out to both sides of the divide.

“We feel we’re educating landlords at the same time as informing students about what their rights are.”

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