1 Places I’ve Lived: Open Concept Dorm, A Boyfriend's House, and Screaming Neighbors | The Billfold

Places I’ve Lived: Open Concept Dorm, A Boyfriend’s House, and Screaming Neighbors

Oshawa, Ontario: $850/Mo. for Room and Board
The first place I lived that wasn’t my parents’ home was an on-campus residence at Durham College. The first suite I was put in was open concept, which meant there was a 1.5-meter high by 1.5-meter wide dividing wall between two beds. My suitemate was a girl in an “Intro to Design” program who stayed up until 5 a.m. drinking (often times my gin), watching Friends, and sleeping with her boyfriend. This sucked. I stayed in that room for two months, and then moved to a private suite with a girl in my program, who really loved her parents. She’d call them every day, spend two hours on the phone with them, and then drive home every weekend to see them. The move was probably the worst decision I could have made.

Living in the new building put me closer to my hard partying engineer/sports management/dental hygiene friends. And while I had way more fun in the new building playing drunk-parking-lot football, drunk soccer and mastering Kings, I drank all my money away and ended up moving back in with my parents with a huge amount of debt, and a 30-pound beer baby.


Billings Bridge (Ottawa), Ontario: $0
While living at my parent’s house, I met a guy who had a pretty sweet apartment near Billings Bridge in Ottawa, about an hour walk from downtown. The best part was that it wasn’t my parents’ house, and was near a bus line that brought me to work. I probably spent four days a week at his house, and was all set up with my own pillow, toothbrush, and loofah. Sometimes I would stay for a week if he was away, and watch the cat until he got back. He asked me to move in with him, but I was allergic to his cat, didn’t want to spend more money on Claritin, and honestly, just liked having my own space. So we broke up.


Val Tetreau (Hull), Quebec: $620/Mo. One-Bedroom
I spent a year and a half at my parent’s house after coming back from the Dirty Dirty (this is what people call Oshawa), getting out of my massive school/liquor debt, and then found a super cute one-bedroom in Hull. Ottawa is also called the National Capital Region, which includes Gatineau, and Gatineau/Hull is on the Quebec side, which makes it a safe haven for drinkers under 19 (and pretty much all acts of debauchery). The apartment had tile floors and a washer and dryer, plus a cute little patio and was a three-minute walk to the beach. I was also about a 15-minute bus ride from the bars and work. The terrible part was that my landlord lived in Montreal and travelled for work, so any repairs I needed (dryer stopped working, door fell off cabinet and a ridiculous influx of earwigs from the poorly sealed windows) were not addressed. I got really tired of being poisoned by RAID, and having to sneak into my parents house to do laundry. I terminated my lease and moved in with a very good friend of mine.


Hintonburg (Ottawa), Ontario: $995/Mo. Two-Bedroom
I was so excited to live with someone I actually liked, and was anxious to get away from the earwigs and have a fully functioning washer/dryer again that I didn’t follow any of my good senses. I saw the new apartment after my friend—let’s call her Mary—had already seen it. Mary told me it was fantastic, and that it was a great location between both our work places. When I went to visit the place, the power was out from a storm, so I couldn’t really see the bathroom/shower stall very well, and then the basement where the washer and dryer was located was pitch black.

What I could see was the huge, bright kitchen, two parking spots, backyard, and lovely front porch. So I said, “Sure, let’s do this—it seems good enough.” We moved in about a month later, and the problems started immediately. If our neighbors upstairs used hot water, our shower was freezing cold, and if they used cold water our shower was scalding hot. I immediately started noticing a new and horrifying bug called a house centipede that ran super fast and crawled out of the walls. The basement was a shit show of horrors: Its walls leaked when it rained, and the ceiling was so low that I had to crane my head sideways to use the W/D, and I always sported a headscarf as I was afraid of spider/house centipede attacks.

But the absolute worst thing was the upstairs neighbors. They screamed at each other non-stop and we heard everything. The woman was unemployed, and when not screaming at her boyfriend, would smoke darts with a fury—the smoke coming into our apartment because of shared vents. She was very confrontational. I planted flowers in the front after speaking with her about placement, and she screamed at me for doing it wrong (it looked fabulous, I must say). She would yell at Mary and me about where we put the garbage can, where I put my bike, and about our cars being parked in a manner restricting her access to the back yard. And if she wasn’t yelling at us about something, she would become nice, stand out front and engage in conversation with us about whatever the topic of the day was, and then would get mad if you told her you had to leave.

It got so bad that Mary and I had to strategically plan when we were leaving and coming back to the house. We would listen for movement upstairs, pray that she stayed up there, and then flee the property as quickly as possible. We would sometimes drive by the street and see if she was outside, and then if she was, we’d go shopping or hang out in the park until the coast was clear. We did basically everything we could to avoid her. We talked to our landlord about the smoke and the yelling, which he then talked to our neighbor about. That made everything worse, but the rent was so cheap so we ended up staying for 16 months until we couldn’t deal with the craziness anymore. I have to admit, I had some excellent parties, I was super belligerent and was pissed at the crazy lady, so I would have my friends over after the bar and sit out back and in the house until 6:30 a.m. shouting, drinking, and acting like jerks. We also had a very successful bachelorette party, and an awesome welcome home party for my friend who was back from overseas. If I had better neighbors, the parties probably wouldn’t have been as legendary.


Centertown (Ottawa), Ontario: $644 Studio
I love my current place. There is absolutely nothing I can complain about. The neighbors are quiet, and respectful of my privacy. I live within a 25-minute walk to work, 30 minutes to my favorite bars, and a 15-minute walk from my best friend’s house. It’s somewhat small, but that’s fantastic for me because when I have space ,I become a clutter bug. The bathroom is nice and big, and I’ve a wee fire escape of my own. Another big plus is the huge amount of kitchen cupboard space, which is floor to ceiling and deep. There is a washer and dryer in the building one flight of stairs below me. It’s only a 20-minute drive from all my family members (we like our distance). I pay for electricity and heat, which is no big deal since the cost is minimal, and I also pay for parking which is only $25 a monthe. I’m hoping to stay here for at least a year or more. I’m only on a month to month lease so if I choose to up and drop my responsibilities, I can (unlikely, but so romantic).


Natalie lives in Ottawa with two plants she will surely neglect and kill. Follow her on Twitter @hunezna for deep thoughts on work, food and general Ottawa amazingness.


20 Comments / Post A Comment

Megano! (#124)

YOUR BF’S APARTMENT AT BILLINGS BRIDGE IS WHERE MY SISTER LIVED UNTIL LAST MONTH! I lived at the building down the street at Bank/Riverside. If you saw a couple girls running around that neighbourhood w/corgis, it was us!

DoneDeeds (#2,036)

Oh, Ottawa. I lived there for around 6 months in ’10, trying to pull a relationship out of the gutter (I have never felt so relieved as when I packed up and left the city, and the relationship, a couple days before Christmas). Anyway, I was SO surprised by the rent when I moved there – $600 a month for a bedroom (A BEDROOM) above a pizza place than I’m sure was a mob front in the seedy part of the Byward Market hood. I had spent the previous 4 years in Montreal, so I guess I was spoiled by cheap rent and charm. That said, there are some adorable Ottawa neighbourhoods. And yarn stores to die for!

Megano! (#124)

@DoneDeeds Ottawa rent is actually pretty cheap by Ontario standards.

DoneDeeds (#2,036)

@Megano! For sure by Toronto standards. But for other mid-sized Ontario cities(Guelph and Waterloo, in my experience anyway) Ottawa is definitely up there. Maybe I’m just cheap though :)

Megano! (#124)

@DoneDeeds I thought Guelph/Waterloo was getting more expensive b/c of all the tech startups.

DoneDeeds (#2,036)

I can’t speak to that because I haven’t been living here long enough to see a change in the rental market. For context, my brother pays $345 / month for a bedroom close to the University in Waterloo (3 bedroom house), which I think is inexpensive.

Megano! (#124)

@DoneDeeds Yeah. But he’s probably in a student ghetto and they tend to be a bit cheaper than most parts of town.

DoneDeeds (#2,036)

@Megano! You’re right that his rental is less expensive than a rental for a young professional. As a student, my experiences have been with student rental markets. I don’t think that negates my opinion that rentals in Ottawa are comparably more than similar rentals in Guelph, Waterloo (and Hamilton, to throw another one into the mix). More expensive than Toronto: certainly not. More expensive than many other Ontario cities: anecdotally, yes.

Megano! (#124)

@DoneDeeds Well when you think about how most people there have generally pretty stable jobs with the government or government owned things, it shouldn’t really be that surprising. Oh and plus there is a rental shortage there, so landlords can charge a little more.I dunno when the writer was in that apartment in Billings Bridge or what size it was, but my sister had a two bedroom there for like $850 plus maybe $50 every couple months in utilities. Also the Byward Market is a tourist trap so yeah, it’s crazy expensive there.

Renleigh (#2,110)

Okay, how do you master Kings? The way I play, all you have to do is follow rules – no skill involved. Or does mastering it just mean you have the rules memorized and aren’t the person who’s always like, “wait, what are jacks again?”?

hunezna (#1,009)

@Renleigh Exactly! No one wants to be that person who needs to look at a wee card to tell them what to do. Also being a champion of the waterfall round…
@Megano Never saw a couple a corgis frolicking… but if you ever saw a guy walking a large black and white cat on a leash while a girl avoids eye contact with people walking by that would have been me!

Megano! (#124)

@hunezna I think my sister has seen you guys!

hunezna (#1,009)

Ottawa’s rental market is unkind. The Billings Bridge apartment was a 1 bedroom I think probably not the same as your sisters’ @Megano… he paid about 900$ for a 1 bedroom utilities incld. Standard price for a 2 bed (in a properly renovated older downtown home you don’t worry about dying in because of black mold/murderers sneaking in your shitty windows/bugs crawling on you) is about 1100-1400 a month. I’ve seen cheaper, but generally you are leaving downtown and hitting chinatown/little italy or vanier/new edinburgh.

Megano! (#124)

@hunezna Hmm I guess we got in there before the prices went up, because my two bedroom was $1000 including all utilities (it was kind of shitty tho), and hers in the same building (for a two bed) as your bf was about what he paid. But when we tried to move, yeah, we couldn’t find a place we could afford (that also allowed dogs) because there’s a scarcity of rental properties there now. There was one place that we went to go look at the place and he had already rented it to the ppl right before us, and another time when a dude put a place up for rent even though he hadn’t actually gotten a notice that the old tenants would be leaving.

sventurata (#27)

it’s brutal. I’d like to rent a 2BR with my dearest friend for a year, but it’d be temporary and I’d have to find ANOTHER 1BR in my price range, which, it only took me three years to do already. Forget condos, we need more rental properties in the downtown core.

theotherginger (#1,304)

billfold can you correct a glaring error? Hull is in Quebec, not Quebec City!
Also, I’m from Ottawa, but never lived there as an adult, so all this info is very interesting!

bloodorange (#105)

Oooohhh, I just got a really ugly flashback to an old boyfriend’s first on-his-own place, a ground-level/cellar-ish one-bedroom in Vanier. Seem to recall it being something like $500 back in 2001. oof.

Megano (#739)

Obligatory WHAT?! from Vancouver here — I cannot wrap my head around how cheap rent is outside of the GVRD. I’m currently in a 2 bdrm condo on Main Street (Hipster Central) and feel like I’m getting a sweet deal for $1995/month. Downside: electric can run up to $120/month in the winter, as we have WAY TOO MANY WINDOWS.
That said, I did spend a year in Montreal paying $600/month for a darling studio on the Plateau and my friends said I was getting ripped off…

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