International student Godwin Augustin tried to find a place to live before moving to Timmins, but he could not find one.
The housing problem in the city has been significant for international students in recent weeks. Unable to find convenient accommodations, some Northern College students are staying at motels as the school works to tackle the issue.
As the September intake for the Northern College is about to start, over 200 international students are expected to move Timmins, with the majority being from India.
“We are in the process of developing some community partnerships,” said Audrey Penner, Northern College's president and CEO.
One third of the student residence at the college is currently vacant. Some students say they cannot afford to stay there because of the cost.
The cost for a single room at the college residence is $3,100 per semester and $775 per month, according to the college website. Penner said that the rent for both domestic and international students is the same.
Twenty-four-year-old Augustin arrived in Timmins on July 29 and is currently staying at a motel.
Augustin said he tried to find a place to live a month before moving.
"I contacted some online friends from India, but I didn’t expect it to be so long,” he said.
He approached the student resource department at Northern College for help.
“They are helping me a lot. They provided some links and other sources. Also, they (added) me to a WhatsApp group,” he explained.
The college set up this WhatsApp group recently for people to communicate. Every Friday, a housing availability update is shared in the group that Penner said has been "well-received".
The college is also working on different measures.
"We are working on marketing campaigns targeting homeowners and landlords,” she said.
The college is looking to connect with people with a variety of apartments and rooms available to rent.
Rizwana Chembottuthodi is also a Northern College student and moved to Timmins with her husband Muhammed Jasper a couple of weeks ago. They were staying at a motel until a friend provided them with accommodations.
"We were already nervous about going to another country. Without having an accommodation ready, made us more tensed," Rizwana said.
“We had many problems communicating with some people who we know online. Especially the time zone difference," said Jasper.
SI property management owner Sagar Menon said this problem will only worsen.
"I have at least 50 people asking me for housing from India," he said.
As the college is opening more in-person classes, he anticipates more people arriving by the end of September.
“Some landlords are not really in favour of accommodating students," said Menon. He thinks the homeowners and landlords are concerned about their ability to pay rent without delay.
At the same time, Penner says they are monitoring the needs of the students online.
"We try to answer every student," she added.
Anyone with apartments or rooms for rent for students can email email@example.com or call 705-235-3211 ext. 1-2319.