Toronto is a notoriously expensive city. Rents are highest in the country, just after Vancouver. It’s getting so bad, even New Yorkers who move North for a better life are complaining.
Rent payments are almost an afterthought – every month, money gets deducted from my bank account and I’m forced to accept it. Still, when I read in that article that average rents for a one-bedroom condo had soared to over $2200, I gasped at the misfortune of my fellow Torontonians.
Now, recall that $2200 is on average. That means some people are paying more. Some people are paying less. I fall in the category of paying less than that – substantially less on a “great deal” of a place.
So let’s talk about that: what does living in Toronto on a “deal” actually get you. I have a strange feeling some readers will still be appalled based on how much our apartment costs even though my neighbours might consider it a steal. (Note: we moved in fall 2016)
Our location is pretty prime for getting around the city. We’re a 7 minute walk from the closest subway station and a 13 minute walk to the major transfer artery where we can access both of Toronto’s main subway lines.
We’re also not far from amenities, which is to be expected when one lives downtown. We have the low-cost competitor grocery stores of Food Basics and No Frills both roughly 10 minutes on foot, and a significantly fancier one just 7 minutes away.
Basically, within 15 minutes walking we have everything one might need to survive: pharmacies, hospitals, cinemas, libraries, parks, theatres, the Eaton Centre mega-mall and other rich people department stores.
By bike, things get even better: 20 minutes to the water, 18 minutes on bike to work, 13 minutes to my girlfriend’s place, and much faster for all the amenities.
The downside is our area is quite the party town since we’re smack in the middle of the LGBTQ neighbourhood, affectionately called “The Village”. You can bet Friday and Saturday nights will be full of hustle and bustle and people at varying degrees of intoxication. Pride week is also insane, where music and people seem to overwhelm the neighbourhood for 7 consecutive days.
Near our building is also a youth shelter, which means the presence of homelessness. During the winter, I’ve found a homeless person or two napping inside the first set of doors to the apartment building. These incidents would factor in wherever you live in Toronto, but they are noticeable here. But frankly, I’m okay with it all – the party animals usually don’t venture to our apartment area and the homeless largely don’t cause any trouble.
It’s the tradeoff you make to live “centrally”.
Inside our building you’ll find my roommate and I in a ground floor apartment in 850 square feet of space with 8 foot ceilings (a rarity in Toronto these days). Originally, our unit was actually a one-bedroom with a massive common area – someone at some point slapped up a wall and made it a 2 bedroom, which narrows our common area but still makes it fairly comfortable.
The kitchen has a nice separation from the rest of the apartment, with plenty of counter space relative to new buildings that get put up. The appliances are older, but they do what they must.
Both bedrooms have large windows and give enough space for each of us. Mine is the smaller one, so I pay less for it as agreed with my roommate.
The bathroom is tiny, but what can you do. The floors and yellow tile are dated, but as two males living here, we don’t need the space. Plus – we just do what we must and get out.
Aside from the main central area, we also have access to a sizeable storage closet which condos usually charge extra for. It’s pretty hard to find dedicated storage space these days within units, so we feel very fortunate to have it.
The best part though is our yard. Yes, that’s right – we have a full on yard. The grass is shared with all ground floor apartments, but everyone largely stays to their own area.
It’s been great in terms of having BBQs and it opens up the space for socializing with friends. Even though we’re on the ground floor, we haven’t encountered any issues people trying to climb our fence and commit treasonous acts. The worst thing that happens are neighbours above us dumping cigarette butts and the occasional pieces of garbage off their balconies, which is frustrating, but something our superintendent manages.
Rent Control: This is huge. Since our building was built before 1991, our rent increases are tied directly to the Consumer Price Index, meaning it basically rises at the rate of inflation. Year one, our rent rose 1.5% and this year it will rise another 1.8%. Thank goodness for lawmakers!
Utilities included: With hydro rates in Ontario sky high, we’re blessed having water and electricity included in our rent.
Parking: Not written about here, but parking is cheap. $80 a month gets me a space downstairs when other spots in the neighbouring area go for $140 a month.
Clientele: For the most part, our apartment building are young working professionals. There aren’t many party animals, though I do have my dislike for my direct neighbours who smoke outside and run the TV a bit loud in the early mornings.
Winter Challenges: Having been built decades ago, we still use radiant heating, which cheaply gets run centrally by our superintendent and is always kept just below a comfortable range, especially in the dead of winter. It doesn’t help that with so many large windows, our insulation isn’t great. Slippers, sweaters, and space heaters are essential.
Summer Challenges: Being an old building, we also don’t have air conditioning built in. This means we run a portable unit in the common area. It makes this comfortable, but it can be loud and doesn’t reach fully into other parts of the apartment effectively, like our rooms, kitchen, and bathroom.
Ventilation: Again: being an old building, there are no fans located in the kitchen or bathroom. We really on a basic vent that runs through to the outside.
Electrical wiring: For some dumb reason, when they installed new outlets, they decided to run 80% of the power off of one circuit. That means if my roommate and I decide to both run our space heaters in winter at the same time off the wrong outlets, our power will cut out and we have to reset the circuits.
In our opinion, the positives outweigh the negatives. For the location, the amount of space we have and the rent control, we live with the negatives. Split down the middle, both of us pay just over $900 for our rooms, which is pretty good considering a one-bedroom condo would cost substantially more.
So there you have it: that’s a “deal” in downtown Toronto! We’re certainly lucky. For us to get the place, it took a bit of fortuitous apartment hunting, good credit scores, a rapid deposit to secure tenancy, and a bit of mutual sacrifice.
It ain’t perfect, but hey – it’s home.