School is out for the summer but many university students are worried about finding an apartment for the fall

"It's incredibly difficult right now to find student housing. The big key right now is affordability," said Madeleine Stinson, president of Dalhousie's Student Union.

She said she has been receiving lots of emails from students looking for help finding apartments or help to pay for them. As in-person learning returns on campus, so too are the students. But COVID-19 means there will be fewer spaces in residence than before.

In an email, Dalhousie spokesperson Janet Bryson said its overall residence capacity is being reduced to 80 per cent.

"Dalhousie has a residence room assignment policy that gives priority to new, direct-from-high-school students," Bryson said. "Demand for rooms from the new direct from high school group is high this year, leaving very little space available for other students."

Bryson said Dal is seeing high demand from students who are in second, third, or fourth years which is not traditionally the case.

"A lot of the houses in Halifax are already gone," Stinson said. "The big issue being that student houses usually do leases quite early on in the year so you know ahead of the academic year where you're staying. Another big thing being landlords prefer to meet their tenants in person and right now a lot of our students can't get into the city because of travel restrictions."

Saint Mary's University is allowing any students to live on campus and offering rooms first-come, first-serve. But it's also scaling back the number of rooms available and requiring all students to have some kind of meal plan in case they need to self isolate during the year.

"We're not going to run double bedrooms, which does decrease our capacity but a couple hundred rooms," said Matt Robinson, director of Housing with SMU. "We're not running a wait list yet. We likely will be in the next little while."

Senior Analyst with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Tadiwanashe Mangwengwende said vacancy rates in Halifax at the moment are very low.

Mangwengwende said the vacancy rate went up during the pandemic, but that happened without international migration and a lot of international students around who experts anticipated would continue to put pressure on the rental market when they returned.

"And that's what we're beginning to see. People coming back. A return to a more normal world and with it, the pressures on the rental market start coming back," he said.

Dalhousie's spokesperson Janet Bryson said to help students find housing, they have a new support in the form of an Off-campus Advisor, who can be contacted at housingsupport@dal.cato personally support students as they navigate the Halifax housing market.