Why is Rent in Toronto So Ridiculous?

Photo by Alex Shutin on Unsplash.com

According to a recent report from Blog T.O., the average rent for a single-bedroom apartment in Toronto is now $2,300 per month, which translates to a yearly cost of about $27,600. These numbers come out of a recent report by Zumper, an apartment rental site. 

On the Canada’s Census website, which is run by Statistics Canada, the average median income for Ontarians after taxes in 2021 was almost $19,000 for individuals aged 15 to 24, and was around $43,000 for those aged 25 to 34. 

Generally speaking, for the average young adult between the ages of 18 to 24 in Ontario, paying for rent in Toronto would be beyond the means of many, especially students. Simply put, studying at either one of Toronto’s three major Universities — the University of Toronto, York University, and Toronto Metropolitan University (formally known as Ryerson) – would be too expensive for the average student. This is without considering other necessities like food, tuition, and transportation (among many others).

Similarly, for those in the average median income bracket between the ages of 25 to 34, over half of their income would be spent on that $27,600’s worth of rent. The same Blog T.O. and Zumper articles found the median one-bedroom apartment price has soared to a 23.7 per cent increase since last year. 

The trend of rising rental costs is not unique to Toronto, or even Ontario. All across Canada, rental unit prices are dramatically increasing. Another article by CP24 and the Canadian Press which used data from Rentals.ca and Urbanation, saw that the average listed rent for all property types in Canada jumped by almost 11 per cent from last January, making it “the ninth straight month of double-digit increases.”

Paul Anglin, a professor at the University of Guelph specializing in macroeconomics, real estate, and housing, was asked about the reasons behind the increasing rent. He points to “supply and demand” as one of the primary factors driving up costs.

“On the supply side, rent control lowers rent to the people who have a space but, in general, it discourages people from renting out their space. There is also surprisingly little purpose-built rental property built these days. So, the vacancy rate for many cities in southern Ontario is very low. That fact means that anybody who is looking for space is in a relatively weak bargaining position” he says. 

Anglin, who grew up in Toronto, has firsthand experience with the city’s high cost of living. “It is a popular place to live. Toronto also attracts many international immigrants. Since many of them start their life in Canada in a rental property, they often compete with students looking to rent,” he adds. 

Economics and housing expert, Frank Clayton, is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Urban Research and Land Development, at Toronto Metropolitan University. His response echoes Anglin’s point about supply and demand. Likewise, he identifies other factors contributing to the demand for housing/rent, including growing jobs, increasing immigration, and aging millennials.

“The supply of additional housing has yet to respond adequately to this demand mainly because of inertia in the land use planning system as well as the propensity of municipal governments to load all kinds of financing charges on new residential development,” says Clayton.

He also notes how numerous middle-income households are “priced out of the ownership market, so they stay put in their rental suite, adding to demand and reducing the available supply of vacant suites.”

Subsequently, these high costs are taking a toll on students at York University. Some students struggle to stay on top of their studies due to their high rent.

An anonymous third-year student, studying computer science at York University, shares their experience with rent in Toronto. The student says rent is another source of stress, debt, and limitation. 

They describe this juggling act of staying on top of school and expenses as “mix of debt and working. I spend enough time on schoolwork to keep my GPA high enough that I don’t have to worry about my degree, and spend the rest working so my debt doesn’t balloon any more than it needs to.

“It’s a tax on students from less economically fortunate backgrounds. I would probably be doing just as well as my more fortunate peers if I had the time to study as they did” they add. 

Others believe the government and the university should be doing more to address the issue. A third-year communications and media studies student, who also wishes to remain anonymous, shares their concerns.

“We need to push for more affordable housing, whether on a municipal level or even just at York,” they state. “With acres of undeveloped lands, York should dedicate more of it to affordable student housing, and fast.” 

When the student came from Europe to Canada, they noticed the differences between the two societies, adding that “student housing [in Europe] has always been much cheaper than market prices. It was a shock when I came to Canada hoping to live on campus, and I found out that residences (back in 2019-2020) were more expensive than market price.” 

Professor Anglin highlights the fine balance between a person’s living expenses and income level. “Generally, if people cannot afford to live in an expensive city like Toronto, they must seek accommodations elsewhere — the high cost of living in a city tends to force people to move out,” he notes.

Similarly, Professor Clayton observes how these high prices create a ripple effect across some aspects of Canadian society. He cites overcrowding, poverty, commuting issues, and homelessness as some of the repercussions of the high prices. 

Professor Clayton proposed various methods and approaches in addressing our current housing and rental climate, suggesting some possibilities that could be taken by governments, including subsidizing new-purpose rental projects through the income tax system; subsidizing the creation of rental suites in existing single-detached homes; and allowing the construction of mid-rise rental apartment buildings in any existing lower-density neighborhoods.

Whether the prices keep climbing or not, one thing is for certain — consequences from the costly rent can be felt at York University.

About the Author

By David Clarke

Former Editor

David is in his fourth year, studying English at York University. He has a keen interest in filmmaking, writing, literature, video-editing, and ideas. When he isn’t working on his next project or studying, you can catch him watching film-noirs on Turner Classic Movies.


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