Overview of Student Housing in Vancouver [2023 Guide]

January 5, 2023   |   10 Min. Read

The rental market in Vancouver is highly competitive, with high demand and low vacancy rates.

The rental prices in the city are relatively high, especially for popular neighborhoods. According to the December 2023 Vancouver report from liv.rent, the average rent for an unfurnished one-bedroom unit in Metro Vancouver is around $2,227. While the price has dropped slightly compared to previous months, it is still the highest among other cities in Canada.

Because of the increasing population and influx of immigrants/students moving to the city for work and study, the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training reports that over 143,000 international students come to British Columbia each year. Additionally, the supply of rental properties could not keep up with the demand, resulting in low vacancy rates and intense competition for available properties. For example, the vacancy rate for one-bedroom apartments in Downtown Vancouver is currently 1.8%. The combination of high demand and limited supply has created a tight rental market, driving up rental prices.

a student is studying in her bedroom.
Photo source: Tangerine

What are the housing options for students in Vancouver?

There are a variety of rental options available in Vancouver, including student residences, apartments, townhouses, and houses. The type of rental property you choose will depend on your budget, preferences, and needs.

Student accommodation options in Vancouver

In Vancouver, there are three main types of student housing: on-campus housing, off-campus housing, and homestay. Each of these options has its own unique characteristics and benefits.

On-campus housing is usually located close to campus and offers a more affordable rental price but is generally only available to students of that particular school. Moreover, off-campus housing may be slightly more expensive, but typically offers more flexible lease terms and is open to all students. Furthermore, homestay can be the most affordable option, but may be located further from campus and may not provide the same level of consistency as other housing options.

Below is some basic information about the different student housing options in Vancouver:

On-Campus Housing

Some schools offer student housing on or near their campus. Dormitories are usually the first pick of junior students. Dormitories are large buildings that typically house many students and have common areas for socializing, cooking, and exercise, as well as shared bathrooms and showers. Dormitories often have one or more people per room and are managed directly by the school. These are often recommended for first-year college and university students.

Another option is townhouses, which are detached houses that usually have three to six bedrooms with single occupancy rooms (no roommates) and a main floor with a kitchen and living room area. These are often reserved for third to fourth-year university students.

Both dormitories and townhouses may have a nearby cafeteria or restaurants nearby where you can eat daily. These housing options may also include utilities such as heat, hot water, and internet.

Off-Campus Housing

Off-campus shared apartments offer students a single room in a shared living space with one or more roommates. Like dormitories or townhouses in on-campus student housing, they often have a single/ shared bedroom, and a shared kitchen, bathroom, dining area, and living room. 

The rental costs for off-campus housing are often more expensive compared to on-campus housing options. However, off-campus housing is generally more flexible in terms of lease agreements and is open to all students.

It’s important to note that not all schools in Canada can help students find off-campus housing. In these cases, the school may refer students to housing agencies or expect them to research and connect with local housing services on their own.

Homestay 

Homestay is a popular choice for students studying abroad because it is an affordable option and allows students to live with a local family in Vancouver. Students can rent a homestay on a weekly basis, which is a flexible option for those looking for temporary housing. 

However, this may not be the best choice for university and college students, as homestays are often located far from campus and may have strict rules and restrictions, such as curfews, that students must follow. Additionally, there is no consistent standard for homestays, so students may not know if their experience will be good or bad until they arrive.

Market Rental for Students in Vancouver 

Apart from student accommodations, market rentals are a common type of housing available in Vancouver. It includes houses, townhouses, basements, apartments, and other types of units that may or may not be fully furnished. 

Because market rental is a popular option, students may face competition from working professionals when looking for a rental unit, as many landlords prefer tenants with a stable income. However, the market rental can still be a good option for students, as you may be able to rent or share an apartment with friends, classmates, or family members. Some popular market rental websites in Vancouver include Craigslist, Zumper, Rental.ca, and liv.rent

Of these platforms, Craigslist and Zumper have the most options but also have a higher risk of rental scams. It is important to carefully research and read through rental resources before making the decision.

To avoid unnecessary mistakes and fraud, we strongly recommend you go through our blogs:

What Is The Rental Price of Living in Vancouver as a Student?

The estimated range for the rental price in Vancouver is around $850 to $2,300. However, Rent prices can vary widely depending on the location, size, and type of the property, as well as the demand for rental properties in the area.

There are a variety of rental options available, including apartments, houses, and shared accommodations, and it is possible to find more affordable options by looking in different areas of the city or considering sharing a rental with other students.

In this section, we have listed a detailed price list of all the different housing types in Vancouver.

On-campus Student Housing

As mentioned above, dormitories (for junior students) and townhouses (for senior students) are the two main housing types available on campus. As different colleges and Universities’ rental prices will vary, let’s take UBC’s on-campus student residences as an example:

UBC Residence:

Shared Bedroom

  • Ranging from $11,521.99 to $14,191.96 per year per bed.

*It will be $960 to $1,182 per month per bed

Private Bedroom:

  • Ranging from $13,612.00 to $15,1122.99 per year per bed

*It will be $1,134 to $1,260 per month per bed

Off-campus student housing

An alternative housing option to stay with the student community is to live in off-campus student residences. Most intuitions have partnered with other housing agencies, and you can directly book your stay from your school. We will use GEC Living to give you an estimated amount of rental price per month. All GEC student residences are apartments and students will be living in either shared or private bedrooms.

GEC Living Student residences:

Shared Bedroom:

  • Starting from $1,200 per month per bed

Private Bedroom:

  • Starting from $1,600 per month per bed

Homestay

Homestays are often considered the most cost-effective housing option for students studying abroad, as they typically include meals and other amenities in the rental price. The rate of the homestay vary based on different agency companies, we would use Vancouver Central Homestay Ltd as an example:

Here are the approx. rate of homestay:

  • Homestay (no meals): $850 per 4 weeks (Lowest)
  • Homestay (2 meals): $1000 per 4 weeks
  • Homestay (3 meals): $1050 per 4 weeks (Highest)

Market Rentals

According to liv.rent Metro Vancouver Rent Report (December 2022), the average rental price for an unfurnished apartment is:

Pricing sheet of the unfurnished apartments in Vancouver
  • One-bedroom apartment is $2,227 per month
  • Two-bedroom apartment is $3,002 per month
  • Three-bedroom apartment is $3,646 per month. 

Students can opt to live with their friends or families in two or three bedrooms apartments. Here is a breakdown of the average rental cost for different locations.

For furnished apartments, the average rental prices are:

Pricing sheet of the furnished apartments in Vancouver
  • One-bedroom apartment: $2,536 per month
  • Two-bedroom apartment: $3,259 per month
  • Three-bedroom apartment: $4,363 per month

Students living in furnished apartments don’t have to worry about placing new furniture in their homes.

For example, consider a one-bedroom apartment in Vancouver, the average rental price for a furnished one-bedroom apartment is $2,970 per month. It is not surprising given the presence of numerous corporations and schools such as UBC, SFU, and BCIT in the downtown area. 

Similarly, Burnaby, home to many large corporations and schools like SFU, BCIT, LaSalle College, and Coquitlam College, has an average rental price of $2,494 per month for a furnished one-bedroom apartment

The rental price in Richmond, which is popular among newcomers due to its affordability and convenience, is slightly lower at an average of $2,686 per month for a furnished one-bedroom apartment. Richmond is also home to KPU and TWU Richmond campuses.

Is The Rental Price Expensive for Students?

Rental housing in Vancouver can be quite expensive for students, especially given the high cost of living in the city. According to Numbeo, the cost of living in Vancouver is 44% higher than the national average in Canada. This means that students will need to budget carefully to afford the cost of housing, food, and other necessities. 

The main reason that affects the affordability of rental housing in Vancouver is the average income of students. According to Glassdoor, the average income for a student in Vancouver is around $39,186 per year. However, the cost of housing in Vancouver is quite high, as mentioned above, with the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in the city being around $2,700 per month. This means that a student would need to spend a significant portion of their income on housing alone, leaving little left over for other expenses such as food, transportation, and entertainment.

Some students may choose to live in shared housing or with roommates in order to reduce the cost of the rent. There are options available to help students afford rental housing in Vancouver, such as shared accommodation or government-subsidized housing. However, these options can be competitive and may not be eligible for all students.

Therefore, the affordability of rental housing in Vancouver for students can be a challenge, especially given the high cost of living in the city. Students will need to budget carefully and may need to consider various options for reducing the cost of housing, such as shared housing or roommates.

Is Housing In Vancouver Competitive for Students?

With limited housing in Vancouver, it is more competitive for students to a place to stay. 

According to a new report by Real Estate Investment Network Canada, there is a shortage of over 14,300 student beds in Vancouver. Without student beds, a larger portion of the rental housing supply is increasingly being occupied by students looking for accommodations.

Take UBC as an example, UBC opened the new 650-bed this past summer 2021 and is expected to have 1,000 more beds for student residences. By 2030, continued plans to build more new student residences will grow UBC’s student housing stock to 17,300 student beds, with 3,000 of these student beds to be added to campus over the next five years. 

For off-campus student housing, although it is available for all students, this also means that competition will be very intense, as you are competing not only with students from your school but also students from other institutions. Being the largest off-campus provider, all the units are usually fully booked. Because of the limited housing available, students should secure their place before their semester starts.

It can be challenging for students to find market rentals in Vancouver, as they may be competing with business professionals and families for available units. According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), the overall vacancy rate in Vancouver is 1.2, with 117,168 units available.

There are several residential areas close to colleges and universities in Vancouver, including Downtown Vancouver, Richmond, and Metrotown.

  • Richmond has the lowest vacancy rate (1.1%). The rental prices are relatively low due to its proximity to other areas in Vancouver, but still close to some schools like Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) and Trinity Western University (TWU).
  • Metrotown has a slightly higher vacancy rate (1.3%). It is a central hub in Vancouver with good access to public transportation, which may make up for the higher rental prices.
  • Downtown Vancouver has the highest vacancy rate (1.9%), but it is also the busiest and most popular area for shopping and entertainment, which may make rental prices more expensive for students.

Are There Any Subsidies or Initiatives to Help Students Rent a Place in Vancouver?

There are several government policies and initiatives that may impact the rental market in Vancouver. One of the policies is rent control, which is a system that regulates the amount that landlords can charge for rent. In Vancouver, B.C., the Residential Tenancy Act sets out the rules for rent increases. This includes the maximum amount that landlords can increase rent and the frequency with which they can do so. The goal of rent control is to protect tenants from excessive rent increases and ensure that rental housing is affordable.

Another government initiative that may impact the rental market in Vancouver is the Rental Assistance Program (RAP). This program aims to provide eligible low-income working families with monthly financial assistance to help them with the rental payment.

Furthermore, there is a supply of affordable rental housing which make it easier for people with low or moderate incomes to find a place to live. For instance, Vancouver’s Affordable Housing Agency (VAHA) works to develop and maintain affordable housing units in Vancouver. Currently, they have completed more than 18 buildings that are available for people to rent at an affordable price.

Overall, government policies and initiatives like rent control and affordable housing initiatives can help to ensure that rental housing is more accessible and affordable for people in Vancouver.

We know it will be a lot of information, we have summarized and here are some key takeaways:

Leases TermProximity to campusBenefitsCost of Housing
On-campus housingFixed at least one semester (4-5 months)Mostly 5 to 20 mins by walking to your campusVery close to campus, and it is the best option to meet new students from the same schools and same faculty.$900-$1300 per month
Off-campus housingMore flexible, mostly at least one monthMostly 10 – 20 mins by transit Easy to meet friends from other colleges and universities, and you can attend various events organized by the off-campus housing providers$1,200 – $1,600 per month
Market rentalsMostly fixed for one year (12-month) contractIt depends on the location.You can choose your own roommate, so that you may rent or share an apartment with your friends, classmates, or families. around $2,227 per month
HomestaysMost flexible, most homestays are on weekly basisMost homestays are far from campus, it takes around 30 to 60 mins to school.Homestay can take care of all your meals and also introduce you to the culture in Canada.$850 – $1050 per month

If you are planning to study in Vancouver and are trying to decide which school to attend, we have compiled a list of popular colleges and universities in the city. Each school has a list of frequently asked questions that you should review before submitting an application.