Rent increases got me out of my apartment in Toronto. So I moved in with my 65-year-old aunt.
“I pay her rent, but not a lot, and it gave me the opportunity to save up for a down payment”
About ten years ago, when I was 25, I moved out of my parents’ house in Toronto and started renting on my own. I was working in fashion marketing at the time and had little trouble finding an apartment I could afford. I lived in a studio apartment for six years, initially paying $1,100 a month. I thought I was about to buy my own house one day.
At 32, I managed to save enough to move out of my old apartment and buy a condo with my then-partner. It was 2020 and the condo was priced around $500,000. But when the relationship didn’t work out, he bought me. The amount I received was nowhere near enough for a down payment on my own property, and because I had taken advantage of the homeownership program, I had to put most of it back into my RRSP. But it was enough to help me get a great rental unit during the height of the pandemic, and I moved into a downtown condo in November 2020. I was paying $1,600 a month, which is never seen for a one bedroom apartment in Toronto. . Little did I know my rent was going to skyrocket soon.
I later learned that because the unit was built after 2018, Ontario laws allowed my landlord to raise the rent as much as he wanted. A year after moving in, he told me he would raise my rent to $1,800 a month. It was out of my budget, but I found a way to make it work.
Then, in the summer of 2022, he informed me that he would raise my rent another $500 a month in November.
Although I work three jobs — I have a day job in sports media, I practice Reiki, and I invented a patented nail tool called Nail Diva — I knew I couldn’t afford it. I knew how hard it would be to find another place I could afford, but paying that exorbitant rent—$2,300—meant I had to give almost every penny I earned to my landlord. I would have been a poor tenant in housing without being able to save or live my life. After long negotiations, my landlord agreed to pay me three months’ rent to leave the apartment; new tenants are now renting out that same one-bedroom apartment for $2,400 a month.
I still hadn’t found accommodation and I was in a difficult situation. Then I thought of my 65-year-old aunt, who owns a spacious three-bedroom, three-bathroom home in the Dufferin and Lawrence neighborhood northwest of downtown. She’s an empty-nest girl who lives alone, so I thought living together might work. My aunt jumped on board immediately. I pay her rent, but not much, and it gave me the opportunity to save up for a down payment so that I could one day buy a property for myself. I am incredibly grateful for his generosity.
Living with my aunt was an adjustment for both of us, but we found our rhythm and learned to make it work. I respect his rules, like doing the laundry at specific times to save on electricity, and I also help around the house as much as I can. I’ll wash his dishes as well as mine, or clean up after one of our dogs if he has an accident.
Before living together, I only saw my aunt during the holidays, and it’s nice to see her more often than before. She will often keep me company when I cook in the kitchen, and we will chat and hold back on our lives. But we don’t spend much time together since I work most days and nights. I love having my own space and so does she, but it’s always nice to know there’s someone there if you ever need anything, or just want some company.
Yet never in a million years would I have thought I would be here at 35. I often think about how things were for my parents’ generation; it’s frustrating to see how unaffordable this town has become. My aunt bought this house in the 80s (when the average national house price was just under $200,000), when I worked three jobs and could barely afford to rent an apartment.
I know I’m luckier than most. I’m incredibly lucky to have a family member who offered to help me when I needed it, and now I’m able to save some money. For so many people, especially those who are single and have no one to help them with a down payment, renting is a struggle and home ownership is totally out of reach.
It’s discouraging. If you don’t have a place to live, you can’t thrive in other areas of your life. I am a spiritual person and believe that feelings of safety and security come from within. But having a home, whether big or small, where I can stay warm or cool, I believe should be a human right.
– As said to Mira Miller