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1. Approximately 29,000 (77.5%) of university students in Nova Scotia live off campus. 17,000 of these students reside in HRM.

2. The cost of renting in the HRM is higher than in similar sized cities, but better than the national average.

3. Halifax and Nova Scotia have a rental vacancy rate of approximately 3.4 percent. This is considered a healthy vacancy rate, but it does not capture the entire housing picture.

4. If 30% or more of one’s income goes to housing you are considered in core housing need (though this definition does not usually apply to students).

5. Students often compete with lower income renters for cheaper units in the vicinity of their school – which has the effect of “crowding out” lower income renters.


NS Students face significant challenges in accessing suitable housing that they can afford, because of limited supply, limited financial assistance and high university residence costs.

If 30% or more of your income goes to housing, you are considered in “core housing need”. According to this measure, a student would need to earn more than $20,000/year for $500/ month rent to be considered affordable.

Housing very likely takes more than 30% of a student’s income; however, students are not eligible for publicly subsidized affordable housing because their situation is considered transitional.

The cost of conventional residence spaces and meal plans at universities across Nova Scotia exceeds the Canada Student Loan Programs and NS Student Assistance Program assessments. Moreover, the majority of universities in Nova Scotia do not offer on-campus housing options for students with families.

Halifax and NS have a balanced rental vacancy rate at approximately 3.4%; however the availability of housing is not evenly spread–creating pockets of scarcity in some places and over-abundance in others.

Off-Campus Housing in Halifax and Area 

HRM has a total off -campus population of around 17,000. The cost of renting in the HRM is higher than in similar sized cities like Waterloo and London, although better than the national average. About 36% of people in Halifax rent, and 64% of residents own their homes; making it a more rent heavy jurisdiction than most Canadian cities.

Off-Campus Housing in Rural Communities 

Students attending rural institutions are approximately 20% more likely to live in residence than those in urban areas.

In smaller PSE towns such as Wolfville and Antigonish, “populations of renting students have pushed up rents to the point where they are roughly equal those of Halifax” and consequently, “households of modest means are unable to compete”.

Impacts of Students on Rental Markets 

Students must be able to access suitable, adequate housing that they can afford, but they must not displace the already vulnerable low-income renter community which is feeling the pinch of a limited supply of subsidized, off-market housing across Nova Scotia.

StudentsNS has adopted a Housing First philosophy that asks the province and municipalities to invest in and subsidize housing for the general population. By creating new affordable housing and proper subsidies, the relative cost of housing for students will go down as demand for a constantly dwindling stock of on-market, low-cost housing decreases.