Buying a home is the biggest purchase you'll ever make — but who says you have to make it? Welcome to New Lease, a series that examines our long-held beliefs about home ownership and renting in Canada.
I moved apartments so often in my 20s that my family used to joke that I should have shares in U-Haul. There was the third-storey walk-up with high ceilings and a mouse problem; the miniscule midtown Toronto flat with the wood-fired pizza oven out back; the always-freezing two-bedroom… also with a mouse problem. I could go on. They were all so different, but thanks to low vacancy rates, the affordable housing crisis, and climbing rents, the chase to lock in a lease was always the same: Stalk Craigslist for a listing, get there ASAP with references and post-dated (sometimes certified) cheques, and try to convince the landlord that I — and not the dozen or so other people looking at the unit — was their dream tenant. (Which to be honest, was easy for me, a white middle-class woman whose parents were willing to co-sign.)
This competitive market has been the reality for many renters across the country for some time now (although it’s worse in cities like Toronto and Vancouver than say Saskatoon and St. John’s). Finding a great, affordable apartment can be as stressful as buying a home — and sometimes it can seem almost as expensive. The pandemic has only complicated things for the 4.4 million who currently rent in Canada. While rents in some big-city markets have dropped as people leave town for more space (or mom’s house), COVID eviction bans are ending and 16% of Canadians says they’re worried about paying their rent. Ontario is hoping to freeze rents in 2021, but we need long-term plans, like more affordable housing and rent relief.
Here’s what 10 women had to say about the realities of renting across the country.