The Canada Homestay Network, one of Canada’s largest homestay providers, is one such program. While allowances vary depending on the region, in eastern Ontario CHN is increasing payments by 6.7% for those hosting adults. The compensation for high school students is going up from $800 to $850 per month.
In a survey of 2,267 hosts across the country, CHN found that only about 60% felt that homestay payments are “probably” or “definitely” enough to host.
“We would like that to be closer to 100% and we know that inflation has fundamentally changed the feasibility of hosting for many of you,” said Jennifer Wilson, director of the organisation, in an email to hosts.
CHN says it has lost about half of its hosts due the double whammy of inflation and Covid fears.
“We know that inflation has fundamentally changed the feasibility of hosting”
Statistics Canada, the government’s data agency, reported that food prices in April jumped 9.7% compared with the previous year. Experts blame higher fuel costs and the Russian attack on Ukraine.
Most programs have already set their fees for tuition and homestay for the 2022-23 school year. With this restriction, some are raising host compensation even though student payments will not cover the costs. Instead, they are drawing funds from tuition in order to provide hosts with an increase.
According to CHN calculations, the average amount hosts spend on groceries and household items per month has risen by 17.5% since 2017.
“This jump far exceeds the rate of increase of host allowances, which tends to increase more gradually (about 1-2% per year, depending on the program),” the organisation said.
“It’s high time we recognise the contribution our hosts make to the success of our international programs, and start compensating them more fairly for their efforts. At CHN, we like to say that you can never pay a host too much, but you can certainly pay them too little.”
Other educational institutions are ahead of the game. Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, raised its host compensation to $800 per month last year. As a result, spokesperson Crystal G. Belanger says hosts are satisfied and that students and their parents have accepted the need for the increase.
Comox Valley Schools, a school district on Vancouver Island, has already raised its host compensation ahead of the coming school year starting in September. It increased payments to $950 per month in April.
“The response we received from our host families was gratefulness for recognising the increased costs for food, electricity and gas,” said homestay coordinator Lisa Garrett. However, a few hosts say more is needed to cover expenses.
In addition, Comox Valley charges students $200 extra per month if they are athletes with high-calorie diets or have special dietary requirements. “We have never had any pushback from agents or the parents of international students regarding these requests,” Garrett added.