Monday, 1 Mar 2021

Toronto’s affordability crisis: How residents are being forced out of the city they love

As of the start of 2020, the average salary needed to live in downtown Toronto as a renter reached $55,000 a year, according to a report.

Have dreams of owning a home? Well, you’ll need to make more — much more.

The data, which was published by LowestRates.ca, said one would need to make close to $100,000 a year in order to buy a home, and that still doesn’t include costs such as daycare, travel, school or loans.

Because of these expenses, the financial squeeze to stay in Toronto has begun to affect even those who consider themselves “well off.”

Global News spoke with multiple residents who believe they fit into the “middle class” or “upper-middle class” model and think the cost of being a downtown dweller is becoming too much to bear.

You can’t have it all

York University student Andrea Brown planned to graduate school and to continue calling Toronto home, but as that date nears she said isn’t sure that will be possible.

In May, she will face more than $40,000 of looming loans. Tack that figure onto the cost of public transit, food and bills, and Brown said it becomes a stretch.

“I love Toronto. It’s a great city,” she said. “Everyone wants to live here of course (because) it’s awesome, but that means it’s very expensive to live here.”

Even with her parents’ help (they charge her $700/month to live in a basement bachelor suite) and a promising job, as a French teacher, after graduation, Brown said she won’t be able to save what she needs.

So post-graduation Brown said she will be taking her skills and leaving the city she loves for a more affordable place to call home.

“I’m thinking of moving to Guelph. It’s only an hour-and-a-half from Toronto,” Brown said.

“Houses there are definitely half of what they are here. It’s just more realistic.”

Financial expert Rubina Amhed-Haq said leaving Toronto may be an unpopular choice, but it’s one she said she commends.

“I think a lot of people are looking at their parents who, years ago, bought a Scarborough bungalow for say $80,000 and are wondering why they can’t purchase one for even three times that now. That’s why places like the 905 are becoming so popular. It’s more cost-effective,” Ahmed-Haq said.

“The bungalow in Scarborough is now the condo in Scarborough.”

Leaving for greener (and cheaper) pastures

For Anum (30) and James Rubec (33), turning to the 905 is a decision they are now facing, directing their house hunt towards Mississauga after calling the Junction Triangle home for six years.

“We love it so much. Leaving all of the amazing things here makes us so sad,” Anum told Global News.

“We spent the last year trying to buy downtown, but realized eventually we would have to move again due to space. Mississauga has bigger homes and we need that for the future.”

The couple, who share their one-bedroom-plus-den unit with their 14-month-old son, Zak, also pointed at the “crazy” costs of downtown daycare as part of their decision to leave.

“When we started doing daycare visits, we were shocked when they told us the prices. We pay $2,700 a month. As you can imagine, it greatly affects our budget,” said the first-time mother. That’s $900 more than the pair pay in rent.

Overall, Toronto has the highest childcare fees in the country. The Rubecs said they shell out more than $30,000 a year.

“We have great jobs. We are in an extremely fortunate position, actually preparing to buy a house,” said James.

“(But) our daycare costs are essentially a mortgage … Everything is adding up into multiple thousands of dollars for every little life instance that we need to support our family.

“It’s hard when you see what you have in your wallet at the end of each month.”

Anum said she feels the same.

“We should be able to afford safe childcare, a house and a life, but unfortunately nowadays it means we have to leave.”

The future of Toronto’s ‘middle class’

The sentiment of residents being forced to choose between living beyond their means or leaving a home they love is one that greatly concerns Toronto’s mayor.

“We don’t want a city that only consists of people who are very comfortable and who are very struggling,” said John Tory in a sit-down interview with Global News.

But part of the problem, according to experts, becomes defining what it really means to be middle class.

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