Every year thousands of new students descend on this city with no clue where to find an apartment. The largest concentration inevitably ends up in the south end because it's so close to Dalhousie and Saint Mary's. That's dumb. Halifax is pretty tiny, geographically speaking. We're an easy city to walk and bike across (give or take the worst winter ever), and our transit system isn't always completely unreliable.
What that means is you have options. Most students will learn what they like and settle into the part of town that best suits their lifestyles within a couple of years, but we're skipping ahead to start the property hunt right now. Benefit from our decades of roommate squabbles, landlord nightmares and basement apartment hell as we become your guide to the benefits and drawbacks of renting in some of Halifax’s most popular neighbourhoods.
Every late-August the municipality cedes the southern peninsula to another year’s crop of the youthful leaders of tomorrow. It’s probably more shocking to find someone living in the south end who isn’t a university student. This is where 95 percent of the second-year students moving out of dorms will try and live before they smarten up. As such, rents are inflated and there are more than a few slumlords who capitalize on the annual turnover of renters who didn’t know any better. Ignore the towering multi-unit buildings. Find a privately owned house converted into an eight-bedroom apartment, grab a few friends and forge a home for the next few years. Point Pleasant Park is nearby if you need some nature time, and the pubs of downtown will always be close. Just try to make nice with any home-owning neighbours, who put up with expensive tax assessments only to be rewarded with house parties and public vomiting. Ideal for the sophomore undergrad who loves everything about university except the school part.
The edge of Point Pleasant Park stretching northward until Quinpool Road and Cogswell Street.
Mostly fellow students, absent landlords and some very patient homeowners.
Commute to campus
What commute? The south end encompasses four of the city’s universities, so depending on apartment location there isn’t much travel time for students. There are plenty of buses zipping up South Street and down Inglis, but driving on the south end’s residential streets is start or stop depending. Take a bike, or just enjoy the walk.
What was once the poorer half of the peninsula has been hurriedly climbing towards gentrification since the city demolished Africville in the ’60s. Trendy, chic, hip—they’re all accurate labels that the north end nevertheless despises. Tech start-ups share office space with arts co-ops, there are two thrift stores for every gastropub, and nobody knows if that’s a good thing or a bad. The Hydrostone area further north draws in the most expensive rents, but the whole of the north end has seen housing prices increase in the last decade. Many longtime residents have been forced out, and that trend doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon. That said, there are still plenty of great spots to live if you do a little digging. Despite the new neighbours, the north end remains a diverse, welcoming neighbourhood for all of Halifax’s marginalized communities. Ideal for the NSCAD student who hates gentrification in theory, but really loves brunch.
The other side of Quinpool and Cogswell, running below Windsor Street to Africville Park.
Students who know better than the south end, recent graduates, artists, longtime residents, low-income communities and an explosion of gentrifiers.
Commute to campus
Unless headed down the hill to NSCAD, pretty much anywhere in the north end will be a slightly longer haul to class than the south. Luckily, the community is situated along the parallel main streets of Gottingen, Robie and Windsor. It’s usually quite easy to hop on any number of buses heading down those busy thoroughfares, many of which will run right past SMU or Dal. Cycling is just as easy, if not easier, a commute than by car.
A place to live for the quiet folks who don’t need a bar on every block. The west end’s chief benefit is also its biggest drawback. These are residential streets, uninfected by many businesses, storefronts or bars—though some great local businesses are nearby if you know where to look. It also doesn’t hurt that the Halifax Shopping Centre and Hydrostone neighbourhood are each within a 20-minute walk. The west end’s accommodations are dignified; a number of converted homes and a scattering of older buildings. Distance from the downtown action also means rental prices are more reasonable than the chic north end or overinflated south. The whole area will probably see the sort of housing upheaval the rest of the peninsula has experienced in recent years as Young Street welcomes several new high-rise developments. But for now, the west end remains a more tranquil alternative to peninsula living. Ideal for the King’s student who really just needs to study this year.
The other side of Windsor Street, running west along Joseph Howe Drive all the way around to Quinpool Road.
Young professionals and retirees. Probably the lowest concentration of student renters on the peninsula.
Commute to campus
Take what we said about the north end and apply it to the west. It’s a little easier reaching Dalhousie and King’s, given the proximity to Oxford Street. Depending on traffic, walking to NSCAD might be quicker than taking the bus.
Though engulfed in the larger south end, the downtown has its own vibrant identity and a surprising amount of residents given its large retail presence. The area is already the most expensive location to be renting in the Halifax Regional Municipality, and that’s only going to increase these next few years as new condo buildings and office towers rise up over the skyline. In all likelihood, renters will be living above some kind of business, with all the smells and noises that come with that arrangement. The benefit is immediate access to nightclubs and late-night poutine. In fact, even when you don’t go out, the drunken revellers leaving the bars will provide an auditory bar-hopping experience through your windows. Constant daytime construction will likewise make sure you don’t oversleep and miss that test. More students live in the area than probably should, given the rent. Still, there’s a reason every other neighbourhood comes downtown when they want to party. Ideal for the marketing major with cash to burn who doesn’t sleep much anyway.
Running between Cogswell and Morris Street, up from the waterfront to South Park Street.
Whereas other neighbourhoods will have human beings living next door to them, the downtown resident is as likely to share a wall with corporate offices, raucous bars, tasty restaurants and the occasional family of rats.
Commute to campus
The downtown is home to Dalhousie’s Sexton campus and NSCAD, but for any other university’s students this is all basically the same as the south end. It’s probably a slightly longer drive to school, because your car is likely already parked halfway to campus or stuck in a monolithic garage somewhere.
The old joke is that the best attraction in downtown Dartmouth is Halifax across the harbour. Halifax’s former sister city (we amalgamated in 1996) still boasts a proudly unique identity and has, in recent years, been blessed with some urban revitalization. Today there are more services and shops dotting the Dartmouth mains streets than once upon a time, but the area still maintains a safe distance from the bustle of downtown Halifax. Many a nice converted home is available to rent, with some swank multi-unit buildings being erected lately to take advantage of the area’s burgeoning real estate market. Home to a tight-knit cultural identity, and more bang for your buck than peninsula living, downtown Dartmouth is a great spot. It may be better for the student studying at the NSCC campus in Woodside, however. Otherwise, that trip across the harbour can seem onerous during winter. Also, good luck getting your friends to come visit. You may find it hard to live the full university experience if you’re stuck, Gatsby-like, gazing across the water at all the fun your friends are having. Ideal for the music arts student who loves croissants and hates having company over.
Roughly from the Macdonald Bridge, running up along the Dartmouth Common and across Hawthorne Street all the way down to King’s Wharf.
Young professionals, proud Dartmouthians and anyone who’s sick of Halifax.
Commute to campus
Living in downtown Dartmouth will mean getting fairly well-acquainted with the ferry schedule. Don’t worry, it’s the best way to see the harbour. Right now, a year-long redecking of the Macdonald Bridge means a bike and a ferry ticket are probably the least-troublesome way to get to class.
The north of Dartmouth isn’t the first spot that springs to mind when thinking of student housing, but this huge area has very cheap rent and some gorgeous neighbouhoods. In close proximity to the economic engine of the Burnside Industrial Park, much of Dartmouth north is more working class than post-secondary student. It’s also a prime location for shoppers, or those who want to work retail. Mic Mac Mall and Dartmouth Crossing are just up the road. Some areas, like Highfield Park, have garnered a sketchy reputation, which may or may not be deserved. Like any place, there are good neighbours and bad. Depending on your tastes, apartments can be found in high-rise buildings like Horizon Court, or small apartments in converted homes along tucked-away streets. There won’t be many other students around, but the area’s quiet, the price is right and it’s still a short travel time on the ferry to downtown Halifax. As Dartmouth is the city of lakes, there are also a number of swimming spots close by to cool off in during the summer. Ideal for the information technology student who loves boutique shopping.
From the other side of the Macdonald Bridge, winding up along Windmill Road to Burnside and east until Lake Micmac.
Working class, with pockets of lower income and a mix of young families.
Commute to campus
Any trip to Halifax’s south end campuses will be heavily dictated by traffic on the bridges. Easier to get to is NSCC’s Information Technology campus just on the other end of the MacKay. More than most areas, commuters in Dartmouth north are at the mercy of rush hour to get to class on time.
The total area of Clayton Park is probably the smallest out of all the options presented here. So, let’s cheat a bit and talk about what’s around this community. Bordering Clayton Park are the neighbourhoods of Fairview, Rockingham and Clayton Park West. Those names may not mean anything to you, and that’s fine. What’s more important is what they offer. Renting in Clayton Park means extremely close proximity to MSVU, a tiny, insignificant drive to big box shopping at the Bayers Lake Business Park and a wealth of recreational activities at various green spaces and the Canada Games Centre. Dotted between pricier subdivisions are sprawling multi-unit buildings with remarkably cheap rent considering the amenities usually included. The Mount is accessible enough by bus or walking, but having a car will definitely help zipping between Clayton Park’s nearby attractions. Ideal for the kinesiology grad with a Costco membership who wants en-suite laundry without breaking the bank.
Nestled within Dunbrack Street, Lacewood and Glenforest Drive.
The houses are going to be filled with families new and old, but most apartment buildings will be a mix of elderly residents, young professionals and some Mount Saint Vincent University students.
Commute to campus
Scratch any ideas about walking to class. Given the busy roads and highways to cross, a car is a safer option for a quick commute. That doesn’t mean Halifax Transit should be discounted. With a fancy new Lacewood bus terminal and multiple service routes, Clayton Park is more bus-friendly than it initially appears.
Cheaper than Clayton Park, and closer to Mount Saint Vincent, Fairview is home to its fair share of student renters. A short commute downtown, it features plenty of housing options, starter homes and a diverse sprawl of local businesses. There’s some pretty amazing views of the city from out across the Bedford Basin, too.
There must be extra electrolytes in the water up in Cole Harbour, as the Dartmouth community has famously birthed athletes like Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon and TJ Grant. Which is nice, but doesn’t mean it’s a great spot to rent. A lengthy commute and isolated entertainment options makes for poor student accommodations. Still, it has that certain je ne sais quoi of Ontario’s suburb life that you may be missing.
Rents are surprisingly high in Sackville given the distance from downtown. It’s not an easy community to commute from either. (Seriously, avoid the 80 bus at all costs.) More likely, your parents already live there and staying in their basement for a couple more years will save you some student debt.
Sackville’s richer, cooler cousin. Bedford isn’t too far from the Mount, and features some gorgeous scenery hidden behind its snaking subdivision streets. The city has flirted in recent years with high-speed rail and an additional ferry terminal to reduce Bedfordian travel times. For now, though, a car is sadly the quickest way to get to class.
That area which is past the west end and across the Northwest Arm. As such, Armdale has some amazing waterfront views and fairly cheap units. You could even kayak to class, if you wanted. As the Armdale community and its roundabout funnel traffic from several corridors into the downtown, you’ll want to make sure to find an apartment off the main streets and away from too much noise.
Maybe if there were more water taxis on the harbour, Eastern Passage would look more appealing to the average university student. As it stands, this coastal community is a significant commute just to the NSCC campus in Woodside. Certainly worth a trip out, but unlikely to contain your next apartment.