A student housing room

Housing options for students in Nanaimo

May 20, 2024
Author: Michael Witcomb, Off-Campus Housing Coordinator

5 tips to find the right fit

You’ve registered for your classes. Now, you’re looking forward to some fun and rest before university starts up in the fall. Great! But before you head out on your adventures, there’s one more thing you should think about now. Where will you live?  

Right now, there are few vacancies in Nanaimo’s housing market so the sooner you start your search, the better. There are also many types of places to stay. These include single-unit apartments, shared secondary suites, like a house's converted basement, or homestay (living with a family). Finding the right housing fit can take some time. House-hunting is a lot of work, but looking through listings will help you decide what suits you. Here are some tips to help you find a place*. 

Make a list of your needs  

The first thing to do is consider your unique needs. Do you plan to use public transport, or will you have a car? If you have a car, where are you going to park it? How important is it to you that you are close to campus? Do you have a pet? Organize your thoughts with the VIU Needs and Preferences Worksheet. This will help you either restrict your search or expand it. For example, if you're happy using public transport, you can look for housing near a bus route.  

What type of housing suits you best? 

Different types of off-campus housing come with various pros and cons. Some of your unique needs that you identified will help you narrow down your options. Do you want roommates to keep costs down, or do you want a place of your own? Is living in a house with a yard important to you, or do you prefer a condo?  

Do you want to try living on campus and getting the full residence life experience? While VIU does offer housing to students on campus, it’s a popular option with limited spaces. Residence considers priority groups but, unless you made an early application, you may have to focus on other options.  

If you are an international student, there’s also the Canada Homestay Network They arrange for you to live with a Canadian family. This may not suit everybody and you should have a chat with a homestay team if you are thinking about this option.  

Figure out how much you can afford 

It is important to ensure you’re not getting into a rental situation that is unsustainable. To calculate how much you can afford to pay per month, you need to have a budget. Fill out a VIU Budget Calculator. Aim to spend about 33 per cent of your total per-month income on rent. Review what comes with the agreement. Does it include things like utilities (heat, hot water, electricity bill, which in BC is called your “hydro” bill?) If it doesn’t, then you will need to budget for these expenses on top of your rent.  

Avoid rental ad scams  

Rental ad scams (tricks) are not uncommon. Signs include much cheaper rent than the local average. Or excuses about why the landlord is not available for you to view the unit. You should also be careful if someone asks for money upfront. Or for personal information like your Social Insurance Number or bank account details. Trust your instinct and stay away if it doesn’t feel right. If you’re out of town, it’s sometimes hard to tell if a rental listing is genuine. You should see the property and meet the landlord/manager if possible. Ask for a video viewing. Be very cautious about sending money before making sure everything is legitimate. More tips are available on the Off-Campus Housing page

Begin your search

Now you know about your personal needs, budget, housing types and being careful of scams. The next step is looking for a place. Some platforms to get you started on your accommodation hunt include: 

  • Places4Students – an online service that lists rental housing for students. It has a great roommate finder too … our most trusted recommendation! 
  • VIU Students’ Union app – lots of students use the app to search for vacancies and roommates. 
  • Facebook groups, Craigslist, Kijiji or similar platforms also have rental listings. A couple of popular Facebook groups are Nanaimo Rentals and Nanaimo 4 Rent. Go to the Off-Campus Housing site for these and more options. 

Still not finding anything that meets your needs? Temporary housing is also an option. You can view our current recommendations on the Off-Campus Housing page. 

More information is available on the Off-Campus Housing page and you can always contact Off-Campus Housing with any questions or book a meeting


*Please note that off-campus accommodation options are not verified by VIU for quality or legitimacy, and that any private accommodation is solely the renter’s responsibility. VIU is not a party in any off-campus housing agreement. Students must read the agreement carefully, understand the terms and be fully responsible for the terms of the agreement before they sign any documentation. 

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