A Toronto tenant seeking someone to share his bedroom for $1,050 a month was able to fill the vacancy within a matter of days – a high sign of the ongoing affordability “emergency” within Canada ’ s housing market, according to an expert in the field.
Glen Bautista advertised his room in a 4-storey red brick townhouse near Dupont and Ossington avenues for rent on Facebook last week.
“It only took like three, four days … within five days, he moved in,” Bautista said, of his new roommate.
Bautista moved into the bedroom in April with a roommate who has since moved to Alberta. They shared a walk-in closet, bathroom with two sinks, balcony, and a room with a divider to create some privacy.
“Sharing a roommate is difficult, especially since I work in the mornings, and my previous roommate worked in the restaurant, so he finishes work at 2 or 3 a.m., and I’m asleep,” Bautista said.
Before that, they lived in Scarborough — a more than hour commute to work for his roommates.
While Bautista’s full-time job as a business analyst is located in North York, he says the new house is close to his part-time job on weekends as a server and bartender.
There are added logistics to sharing a room, Bautista admits, but he said the current apartment – downtown, near a transit station and one of his jobs – is worth the compromise when compared to his previous place in Scarborough for practically the same price.
‘IT’S AN EMERGENCY’
Nemoy Lewis, an assistant professor of urban and regional planning at Toronto Metropolitan University, said this situation should serve as a warning signal.
“I think what it says is it’s at a point now where it’s an emergency … It signals to me the failures of policies in foreseeing these particular issues to arise in the market,” he said.
It speaks to the creativity tenants have to take in unaffordable markets, Lewis said. “If folks are having to go at these lengths to find housing in the city, it begs to wonder if the current market is helping to create more income polarizing cities only the wealthy can afford to live in.”
The rental market has climbed steadily in Toronto over the last two years, with little relief in sight, according to real estate research firm Urbanation’s July report. The average rent for a condo under 400 square feet in the city was $2,121 at the time.
“Rents are now being driven to new highs on interest rates hitting their highest level in 22 years, the population increasing by a record pace, near record-low unemployment, and scarce supply,” the report stated.
There is no “magic pill” to fix this, Lewis acknowledged. However, removing policies that are eroding the marketplace is a good place to start, he said.
He points to vacancy decontrol, a police put in place more than 25 years ago that allows landlords to raise the rent of a unit without a cap is the space is vacated, in contrast to the rent control in place that presides over an occupied unit.
“What this essentially does is it incentivizes landlords to remove long standing tenants protected under rent control and in turn, rent them out to a new, more affluent tenant class,” Lewis said.
As another instance, Lewis looked to Premier Doug Ford’s removal of rent control on new units built after Nov. 15, 2018, in an effort to boost the rental supply in the midst of soaring housing costs, which Lewis said has only “exacerbated” the affordability crisis.
“We need to think long and hard about what are the current policies that got us here in the first place and how we can turn the corner and create policies that are actually going to ensure that housing becomes a social good again in this country.”