Today’s Stand: Rent is unaffordable for everyone in Toronto — and that’s okay

In response to my New York Times op-ed this month, “Can the rent be called affordable when rents are ‘affordable’ to the rich?” a couple of emails, one from Jim Thurber and another from Sivani John, on the scope of the affordable housing crisis:

1. I live with my husband and children in Toronto. The median monthly rent is $1,315 for a one-bedroom apartment. It has all the amenities of a big city: a pool, a sauna, community center and also soccer fields for the kids to use. Which is ironic because we are struggling to save enough money to rent one of the moderately priced empty houses in this area. Not to mention the 6.99% tax that was recently added to rental property taxes. This puts our monthly rent at $1,470. I have a PhD from MIT and I’m currently working in statistics and data mining. In Canada this job isn’t taught to immigrant adults, but the job pays about $50,000 a year. However, in Canada I have to pay rent ($1,480), property taxes ($500), a monthly mortgage ($1,235) and, all told, I live in a rental house which has two rooms and a kitchen. It’s just way too expensive to move back to the United States.

2. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that every household in Toronto or the U.S. should have a home that they can afford. But I wouldn’t say that we should look for low-income housing even if it doesn’t solve the problem of housing for the poor. Why? Because there are tons of tenants in high-rent buildings already. If we just build more affordable housing units the way the city of Toronto would like to do, we would put hundreds and hundreds of people out of a job. Look at our city right now. That is how many people already are working for less than a living wage.

3. When you are a middle-class person like myself, there are only so many apartments to go around, so you move out of your very small apartment to look for bigger places. It’s hard to just leave your current place. If you do, then you will need a car or an apartment that is near transit and near public transportation. Which in Toronto means two trains and a bus ride each way. Then there is the matter of rent. Most of the people living in the nicer neighborhoods will have to pay a little extra for a parking spot.

4. But why do we take the money given by the government to help us live in this beautiful city that we were born in, and we just throw it away to subsidize the living conditions of thousands of people who aren’t part of our great city? What kind of city do we want to live in, where some people are able to stay in their low-rent apartments while the few people that do have higher rent can move in, or can’t afford anything or just give up and move farther away to a cheaper neighborhood? Or where do we really want to live?

I will leave it to you guys to decide.

Jim Thurber: I am live in Toronto and was happy to help out. I have been to North America’s great cities. The reason we have so many wealthy people here is because we are fortunate enough to live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. We have beautiful parks, beautiful beaches, and wonderful people who live in it. Housing is mostly unaffordable for people who make minimum wage in this city, and that is a shame. I hope you can move out of your downtown apartment.

Sivani John: I want to live in Toronto too! The problem is in this city is not actually affordability for people living there. Toronto is not for everybody. No reasonable person would work themselves into poverty in order to live here. Toronto is not for everybody, but I will pay whatever the city is willing to ask for me to move here. Perhaps only one person in the co-op is willing to live there, but if they do, then you should provide a better place for that one person to live.

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