Ingrid Burke, 59, could be the poster girl for the housing crisis. Her story is unique but it is just one of thousands in Toronto.
She rents a room in a house in the Beach but for the past two and a half months has been searching for a more suitable studio or junior one-bedroom apartment. She wants something private and comfortable; a place big enough to bake cookies and host her grandchildren.
Burke is so desperate that she has been tacking up posters in the city’s east end advertising her willingness to do caretaking, painting, small repairs and yard work for a landlord willing to accept $1,500 a month.
“I don’t make enough money to afford what people are asking for a one-bedroom apartment. So, I’ve been kind of hoping that I will just meet that one person that is going to be more interested in having a good tenant that will take care of things rather than money,” she said.
She has also posted an ad on Kijiji and scoured websites like apartments.com, Viewit.ca and Zumper.
Her $1,500 rent maximum is more than half the $2,800 Burke earns a month as a harm reduction worker. That take-home pay is just a little more than the $2,526 average asking price for a one-bedroom apartment in Toronto in April, according to Rentals.ca.
Burke’s poster was compelling enough that the founder of Leslieville’s Realosophy brokerage, John Pasalis, tweeted: “Welcome to Toronto!! Where a single female with a good job & references has to post ads on hydro poles to find a $1,500/m studio apartment to rent. She’s even willing to do manual labour around the home!
“Toronto’s housing market is a complete disaster!” he concluded.
Burke has given notice on her room, which has access to a bathroom and a tiny kitchen, at the end of June. She said friction with two male tenants in the house has made staying untenable.
“I just feel like I’m walking around on eggshells where it’s supposed to be my home,” she said.
“I’m willing to go into a shelter if that raises my chances of getting an affordable living space because I have applied for community housing with the rent geared to income. But the waiting list is like 10 years unless you’re in precarious circumstances.”
Her five-pound Yorkshire terrier, certified as an emotional support animal, makes her apartment search more complicated. But, she says, Indy doesn’t bark in the house and Burke can provide references.
She is willing to live anywhere in the city. But there isn’t much available and when she gets to see a place that seems within her budget — she’s viewed about eight apartments — there’s usually a catch.
“The funny thing is they’re listed at one price and then when you go and see them the price is always higher. They say, ‘Oh well, that’s what it starts at, we advertised what those apartments start at,’” she said.
For other places, “I just didn’t get picked.”
“It just makes me feel inadequate, like I’m never going to get there. It makes me feel like I’m going to constantly have to live in a rooming house. I want to be on my own so that my grandchildren can come and visit me and even spend the night with me,” she added.
“If I could just get into housing, subsidized, or rent geared to income, it would be fine,” said Burke. “But if not, I’m going to have to move and I may have to move to a place like Oshawa and commute.”
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