Brampton says it could get $117M every year from levy on international students learning in other cities

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Published December 20, 2023 at 2:15 pm

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New data showing the staggering number of international students living in Ontario and Peel Region has Brampton calling on the province to update its Heads and Beds levy – a move that could net the city $117 million every year, according to one councillor.

Brampton City Council had its last meeting of 2023 on Wednesday with only one item on the agenda at the request of Mayor Patrick Brown – a discussion on the international student housing crisis being experienced in Brampton.

And with the numbers showing a massive population boom of international students in Peel over the last few years, Coun. Rowena Santos says the city could be due for some $117.2 million from the province’s “Heads and Beds” levy, which sees the province pay municipalities $75 per student in lieu of taxes on behalf of universities and colleges.

Dr. Mike Moffatt of the Smart Prosperity Institute, a national research network and policy think tank based at the University of Ottawa, told council that there were more than 444,000 international students in Ontario in 2023.

Those numbers count for around 54 per cent of all international students in all of Canada – more than all other provinces and territories combined.

But with many students living in Brampton but attending school elsewhere, Coun. Rowena Santos put forward a motion calling for changes that would see the funds paid to the municipality where the student physically lives, and not where they attend classes.

The city is also calling on the province to more than double the Heads and Beds levy from $75 to $158 per student, moves that Santos said could result in $117 million for the city every year.

The numbers showed that between January 2022 and April 2023, Kitchener’s Conestoga College had the most new international students with more 31,400 acceptations – more than both the second and third place schools on the list combined.

As for Brampton institutions, the numbers showed Sheridan College had 9,331 integrational students accepted in the same period while Algoma University had 8,762.

While Moffatt didn’t have exact numbers on how many international students are living in Brampton while attending a school in another municipality, he said the data shows Peel’s population growth is mostly happening in Brampton with a “vast majority” made up of international students and temporary foreign workers.

Brampton City Council also passed a motion calling for federal changes to the international student program in regards to housing as the number of students has skyrocketed in the last few years, the number of new-home builds has stayed relatively flat.

“So you’re seeing an absolutely massive cohort of international students and temporary foreign workers without the appropriate infrastructure,” Moffatt said.

The city is also calling on Ottawa to require international students to provide an address for appropriate accommodations before they are accepted for study.

The calls for change come as Ottawa is more than double the amount of money international students are required to have in their bank accounts before coming to Canada for their studies.

Along with the updates to financial requirements, the ministry is also updating some temporary policies that were set to expire at the end of the year, including a policy that lengthened the time graduating international students could work in Canada without an employment visa.

Earlier this week the city, Sheridan College and Algoma University all signed a charter that lays out a five-point plan which includes upholding ethical recruitment standards and practices, creating academic and wrap-around supports for learners and providing opportunities for legal and reliable work.

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