It’s always nice when Toronto makes lists of the world’s cleanest cities, nicest cities, happiest cities. Less so when we’re landing ourselves on a list of the world’s most unaffordable. This week, consultant Demographia in its International Housing Affordability Survey ranked Toronto fifth after Hong Kong, Sydney, LA and London.
In relation to incomes, our home prices have doubled over the last 14 years. (It depends on your point of view whether this is good news or not, but our fair city rated worst for bubble risk; if they’re right about that, we may not have to worry about making the next unaffordable list.)
Along with Toronto, notable inclusions on the “unaffordable” list in Canada were Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver, with Ottawa-Gatineau labelled “moderately unaffordable” but Edmonton named the most affordable city.
Aside from the majors, Moncton was the country’s most affordable market. Moncton, if you’re thinking about a lifestyle change, made another list recently, when the Bank of Montreal’s latest Regional Labour Market Report Card called it our most promising job market (It may surprise you to know that Oshawa came third).
In all, 46 Canadian cities made the list, where by contrast, Hong Kong was the only inclusion in China and in the UK, often cited as another overheated market and with nearly twice our population, made the list with only 33 unaffordable markets.
It’s not exactly news to those trying to get a foot on the property ladder here. The median total household income in Toronto in 2015 was about $66,000; the average home in the GTA sold for nearly $805,000 in April 2018. It doesn’t take a math whiz to see how unbridgeable that gap is.
It’s no better for renters. Last month, the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario released “Where Will We Live? Ontario’s Affordable Rental Housing Crisis,” a report that says nearly half of Toronto renters are spending 30% or more of their incomes on rental costs, and that a tenant would have to make $24/hour to comfortably make their monthly rent.
According to the report, the average one-bedroom condo rented for $1,800/month in Toronto last year, and the average apartment $1,200, although they sound a little light from what I’m hearing anecdotally. And the director of advocacy and legal services of the organization noted that those aren’t average rents for available units, but rather those that are already occupied.
Clearly these aren’t lists we want to make, except perhaps those who already own their dream homes or are locked into a reasonable rental and are confident rent controls aren’t going to disappear anytime soon. This spring’s housing market has been called “delayed” and “compressed” by pundits, with home sales and prices dropping compared to the first half of 2017.
The new mortgage stress test, it’s turning out, is causing more than just a temporary dip in market activity (along with inching-higher interest rates), according to RBC senior economist Robert Hogue in a recent market note, but he added that he isn’t overly concerned about the “more extensive market correction,” calling the year-over-year decline “a positive development.” The road ahead is likely to be a bumpy one for both Toronto and Vancouver, he notes.
At least we made a less depressing note this week too: if you have got the money to live here, maybe you’ve got the money to eat out here too, as Toronto’s Alo restaurant made the prestigious top-100 World’s Best Restaurants list released this week; the last time a Canadian restaurant made the list was when Montreal’s Joe Beef appeared three years ago.
Alo, located in a heritage Victorian on Spadina Ave., establishment under chef Patrick Kriss, offers a French tasting menu that may include peau de lait (a wee bowl of milk skin with olive oil and chilis for the uninitiated) on the night you can actually get a table — one assumes making such a list is going to boost reservations.
If though, you’re having trouble making rent, you’ll find public grills available at numerous Toronto locations, including Humber Bay Park East and Morningside Park. It’s BYOP of course — bring your own peau de lait. Or just bring hot dogs. I know they’re terrible for you, but when eaten fresh off a charcoal grill under a summer sky, they taste fantastic, they’re still (relatively) affordable, and they may make you forget about your mortgage for a minute.