By Kieran Delamont
The problem with the rental market, and what makes young people vulnerable to poor conditions, overpayment and scams, is that it runs on risk-taking and sacrifice as a form of currency. It shouldn’t be virtually necessary to give up basic privacy to live affordably. It shouldn’t be virtually necessary to view living in the city, and being able to afford life in the city as mutually exclusive. All of these things are realities for a young person trying to navigate the housing market.
I moved to Toronto about a year ago, starting the master of journalism program here at Ryerson. I, like a lot of young people in Toronto, came with the hopes of finding a place that was affordable, yet comfortable enough that I could maintain my sanity amidst school and work. My expectations were, I imagine, fairly average coming in. And yet, I was still shocked by how rough the Toronto market can be.
I don’t have any antidotes. I can offer only this advice:
Don’t do what I did.
Don’t do what I did and move into a room in the basement of a house that you rented sight-unseen. You may end up living with a man who will reveal to you that he was once a member of a cult, ask you to call him Emilio Estevez and will refuse to call you anything but Artem (it is a useful exercise at this juncture to glance over to my byline). He will eat a diet consisting of little else than frozen fish patties and refried beans. (He will regularly offer you his toast; best to decline.)
Don’t do what I did because that might force you, upon closer examination of your walls, to drag the sponge painting out of early-1990s squalor, and do up your bedroom splotchy blue and white that, while it hides some of the minor damage, will become visually exhausting.
Don’t do what I did because it could get so unbearable that you will view another room on a Friday and move in by Sunday morning, spending most of the interim period arranging a cash deal with a sublet so as to mitigate the financial haircut you’ll need to take — and working out the details in a primitive sublet agreement, handwritten on a piece of scrap paper.
(Note: Don’t do any of what I did with the sublet agreement because, even if you do squeeze it tightly within the law, your landlord, who in my case I hadn’t seen since she travelled home to China for a funeral two months prior, will have a thing or two to say about that.)
Don’t do what I did next, and move to CityPlace. Yep, it looks nice. Yep, the condos are kind of sexy. But, don’t do it because CityPlace is basically a dorm room.
Don’t do what I did and move to CityPlace because on your second Thursday, your roommate could come home at 2 a.m. with a member of the opposite sex in tow and start to loudly fly his drone around the apartment (which, he informed all listening parties, had a camera in it, like that would make anyone feel good). Then your other roommate could come home (also with a woman in tow) and, for reasons that are unclear, will move their activities to the bathtub, which is just one conveniently thin wall away.
Then, his ex-girlfriend may show up (bathtub activities still very much occurring) and pound on the door just to start a fight with both of the roommates, plus the two women who are in the apartment — one of whom I could infer was mostly naked — and some guy in a blue vest who is standing around because “I just need the Wi-Fi.” Definitely don’t do what I did, get out of bed to sort this all out like an adult, because you will just become another victim of this ex-girlfriend’s wrath. Somehow, the whole thing was excused away because Thursday “is, like, the weekend, man.”
Don’t move to CityPlace because though it looks nice, luxurious and safe, it too has a shelf life — after which your nouveau-riche neighbours and the too-common spray tans will make it all seem like the saddest place on earth.
Making bad choices when it comes to housing often seems unavoidable — that part is a product of living in a rental market that, from a structural standpoint, doesn’t much care about the conditions of where you live, just that you have somewhere at all.
Yes, I know that housing is a luxury that far too many people can’t afford. Privilege aside, a city shouldn’t do this to its young people. Housing shouldn’t feel like you are charging up a blind alley, regardless of your budget. Taken another way, you could argue that it’s the responsibility of a city not only to provide housing, but to make sure the market doesn’t eat its young.