The real estate market in Canada—and Toronto in particular right now—is, in a word, bananas. The phrase “housing bubble” appears in headlines in the financial pages here on a near-daily basis, and absurd news stories about bungalows in boring suburban neighborhoods selling for $400,000 over asking abound (ok, there was only one story like that, but still! A bungalow sold for 50 percent over asking). This year, the average cost of a house in Toronto reached half a million dollars.
After spending almost a year trying to buy a house in this city, I have a bit of first-hand experience of just how crazy (and crazy-making) Toronto real estate is.
Expensive houses in Toronto are nothing new. After all, this is Canada’s biggest city and economic centre (for now, at least. Hi, Calgary!), and it’s a nice city to live in despite our current civic administration’s best efforts, but that’s another story. For a long time, the houses that were expensive here made sense—they were big, nice, and in good, convenient neighborhoods. Sure, certain neighborhoods were only affordable to rich people, but it wasn’t impossible to buy a decent little starter home somewhere in the city.
Tuxedo Park, Calgary, AB – $485/month (1999-2001) A month after graduating high school, I moved out of my parents’ home and bounced around for half a year before I found this apartment on Calgary’s Centre Street. I sublet a room in a house with five other girls, which was awful and lasted a month. I rented a room in a kitchen-less basement with my cousin, which was even more awful and lasted only two months. I had my own basement suite in a house with a snoopy landlady that snuck in and rifled through my closet. But this, my first real apartment, was perfect! It was a simple one-bedroom (bedroom, living room, kitchen, and bath) in a small 12-suite apartment complex I found in the newspaper’s classifieds. It was on a main street that was close to everything I loved: my family, my boyfriend, my job, my friends, everything.
I loved living alone and this was the perfect starter apartment for a 19-year-old. The building manager was awesome and even once drove over to let me back into my suite after I locked myself out when I’d gone downstairs to grab my laundry, leaving me sitting sadly in the hallway wearing my pajamas until he showed up. And the other tenants were either helpful (giving my car jumpstarts when I’d forget to plug it in overnight in winter) or invisible. I still miss this place.
Housing 600 19 to 21 year old women, Moulton smelled like a lipgloss factory explosion. My roommate and I were lucky: the room was big enough to house four students, which it would do just a year later, and had two windows, one of which looked over a forest path.