Housing crisis has Canada proposing a cap on international students

In an effort to address its housing affordability crisis, Canada is contemplating a first-ever restriction on international students. 

This week, Canadian Housing Minister Sean Fraser proposed capping the number of international students admitted to Canada as a method to combat the country's inflated housing costs.

He mentioned that it was one of the options they should consider. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing increasing criticism for his failure to resolve the housing crisis.

Rapidly responding to Mr. Fraser's remarks, universities and the province of Quebec stated that they would oppose efforts to limit the number of international students.

In 2022, Canada admitted a record number of international students: over 800,000, a 75 percent increase from five years prior.

Following Mr. Fraser's comments, Immigration Minister Marc Miller stated that Canada would also examine its immigration targets to determine if they have an effect on the housing crisis.

Canada has pledged to admit 1.5 million new immigrants by 2025, but there are growing concerns about how this can be accomplished if there is insufficient housing. However, experts assert that limiting new arrivals will do little to solve the issue.

The struggle to pay their mortgage or rent is a persistent reality for many Canadians.

As of August, the average property price in Canada was approximately C$750,000 ($550,000; £435,000). This represents an increase of 360% from the average of C$163,000 in 2000 according to sources. 

In large cities such as Toronto, where a six-figure annual income is required to afford a home, the problem is exceptionally severe. In Toronto and Vancouver, houses typically sell for over $1 million.

In recent years, Canadians living in smaller cities have also begun to feel the pinch. It is a persistent national issue that politicians at all levels of government have repeatedly pledged to address over the past decade.

Population growth, primarily fueled by immigration, outpaces the construction of new homes, resulting in a housing shortage.

According to the country's national housing agency, Canada must construct 5.8 million new homes by 2030, including 2 million rental units, to address the problem.

In recent years, the government has attempted various approaches to resolve the problem. This includes implementing a prohibition on foreign property ownership beginning in January in an effort to reduce market competition.

Professor of public policy and founder of a think tank on housing, Paul Kershaw, stated that while foreign ownership and an expanding population contribute to Canada's housing problems, blaming them exclusively is "looking for the easy villain."

Prof. Kershaw noted that current landowners benefit financially from rising property values, contributing to a culture of inequality between those who own and those who do not.

For international students like Amin Kamaleddinezabadi, it is no secret that locating affordable off-campus housing presents obstacles.

The 30-year-old Iranian who recently completed his PhD in biomedical engineering at the University of Toronto told sources that international students are sometimes required to pay six months' worth of rent in advance due to their lack of a credit history in the country.

Prof. Kershaw stated that housing is a complex issue requiring a multifaceted government response.

This includes addressing not only the housing supply and affordability, but also the significance of real estate to Canada's economic prosperity.