As dire as economic situation in Nigeria is at the moment, not even dollar-a-day Nigerians at home are living in the kind of places some Nigerians are said to find as homes in Canada, all in the quest for ‘better’ living condition and jobs abroad.
Due largely to the rent crisis arising from low housing supply and affordability issues which also define the housing market in Nigeria, some Nigerians who left Nigeria for Canada are now living in cemetery and streets—places that are odd and unimaginable under normal circumstances.
The streets of Canada and, in extreme cases, the cemetery have become top destinations for immigrants and refugees and it is reported that several immigrants, running into tens of thousands, are now pitching their tents in these places as their homes.
In Quebec, one of the country’s largest cities, for instance, one in two homeless people can be located in rural areas in odd places. This is explained by Julie Bourdon, the Mayor of Granby, who noted that, “visible homelessness did not exist three years ago in Granby,” adding however that “rents are very high now compared to two years ago.”
The housing situation in this North American country considered to be the second largest in the world after Russia, is such that, in January this year, the country revealed that it was considering limiting the number of international student visas, including Nigeria, as part of solutions to its housing shortages.
This was according Sean Fraser, the country‘s minister for housing, infrastructure, and communities, who noted that the sharp rise in the number of students was putting pronounced pressure on some housing markets.
It was reported that from January to June 2023, about 10,180 Nigerians moved to Canada, prompting a report by a renting agent in the country called Rentals.ca to note that “the growing number of students entering Canada has added further upward pressure on rents.”
These are, however, to be expected from a country which, in the last few years, has become a preferred destination for international students due to its immigration-friendly policies.
Available record shows that the number of study permits issued to Nigerians by Canada rose by 17.8 per cent to 16,195 as at the end of 2022, up from 13,745 in the same period in 2021. This, according to the record, placed Nigeria among the top 5 source countries for new international students in the country.
Opinion Nigeria, an Abuja-based media outfit, noted recently that despite the housing and rent challenges confronting Canadians, the country was still receiving immigrants from across the globe including Nigerians.
“Recently, the Canadian federal government announced an aggressive plan to take in 500,000 immigrants a year by 2025, with almost 1.5 million new immigrants coming to the country over the next three years. In 2022, the country welcomed 437,120 permanent residents, almost 8 percent increase from the total number of permanent residents in 2021,” the paper said.
It quoted Fraser as saying, “immigration levels plan will help businesses find the workers they need.”
Like Nigeria, the housing problem in Canada has no immediate solution as it is reported that the country’s 2023 budget ignores its worsening housing and homelessness crises and fails to support those in greatest need.
The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH) lamented recently that as communities across the country experience an increase in homelessness and an explosion in housing need, the federal government’s budget failed to do anything new to address the housing crisis.
According to CAEH, “with one million newcomers, a wave of new homelessness driven by rampant inflation and a massive loss of affordable housing, this budget needed to take meaningful action to address Canada’s housing crisis.”
CAEH leads national movement of individuals, organizations and communities working together to end homelessness in Canada. The group’s President/CEO, Tim Richter, said, “it’s clear that the federal government does not see the scale and urgency of these crises, and has offered no solutions.”