Posted on August 4, 2022

Basements and Bedbugs: Recent Immigrants Struggle to Access Decent Housing in Manitoba

CBC, August 2, 2022

As soon as Femi and Omolara Aloba got approval to move to Canada from Nigeria, they started searching online for a place in Winnipeg where they, their two-year-old son and their soon-to-be-born baby could live.

The Alobas had enough savings to cover their rent for a year in Canada, but soon realized just having money to pay for rent wasn’t enough.

Landlords wanted Canadian credit history, Canadian pay stubs, and Canadian work experience —  or, in place of those things, a guarantor in Canada.

The Alobas — who had never visited Canada, much less rented or worked here, and knew no one in Manitoba before they arrived in early 2020 — said every landlord they contacted told them they simply didn’t qualify to rent.


The couple’s experience is common for new immigrants to Manitoba, according to settlement experts. Despite having the means to pay, many struggle to access the kind of rental accommodations they want in Manitoba, unless they can find a Canadian guarantor with good credit.

“It’s definitely an issue for anyone new to the country,” said Codi Guenther, executive director of New Journey Housing, which focuses on newcomer housing needs in Winnipeg.

“Whether they came as a refugee, whether they came as a provincial nominee, international student — anyone who doesn’t have a credit report, it does make it tricky.”


International student recruiter George Coleman knows first-hand how the requirements affect people coming to Manitoba to study.

Coleman, the director of Egroeg Training and Employment Facilitation Services, said the inability to access what he calls the formal rental market drives many students to places they would rather not live.

“I found that in a number of cases, students have to be — I use the words ‘stepping-down’ from their standards,” he said.


Femi Aloba said there should be a way for private property owners to consider the “proof of funds” information that people immigrating to Canada submit to show Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada they have enough money to settle in Canada.

The amount IRCC requires varies based on the size of a family. As of June 9, a family of three people immigrating under the express entry program must have the equivalent of at least $20,371 Cdn.


Avrom Charach, a spokesperson for the Professional Property Managers Association of Manitoba, said the idea of prepaying rent is a possible solution for the lack of Canadian credit history.

But provincial rules prohibit property owners from requesting prepayment of rent — something Charach suggests should change.


In an email, a spokesperson for provincial Immigration Minister Jon Reyes said he is aware of the issue, “and will be discussing with his fellow ministers, as any solution would need to be a whole of government approach.”


Omolara said she considers access to housing to be a “basic human need,” and the couple hope there will be changes so future immigrants won’t have to worry about where they’ll live.

“If anybody is coming into a new country, if they have to worry about how to get a place to stay — like a roof over your head … they can’t even go forward,” she said.