A friend of mine – single mother of three wonderful adolescents – is trying to find a two-bedroom apartment close to their father, in the west end of Toronto. That way they could easily visit back and forth between the two parents.
Imagine the challenge – a two-bedroom apartment in urban Toronto for starters, and on a low income.* She’s been searching for weeks and, as with others I’ve spoken to, has discovered that the only apartments available in her price range are almost unlivable. Already she and her children have acknowledged this, and the search now includes one-bedroom units; the kids have expressed willingness to visit one at a time. I can hardly imagine how discouraging the situation must be.
At this stage in our urban evolution, we should be investing in affordable housing, low-rise apartment buildings, incentivizing basement apartments, and so on. Yet how often do we hear comments like “She should have made different choices” “Why should I pay for her mistakes?” How have we come to this – that so many are only concerned with their own bank account? So un-generous.
Have we completely lost sight of the reality that any of us could end up in the same boat? All it takes is a broken marriage really. Last I heard, this is almost half the population. Or temporary unemployment, which has happened occasionally to some of the finest, best-educated people I know. ‘There but for fortune….’
Toronto has many such thoughtful, creative, smart people who enrich us, but find it a financial struggle to live here. To survive here. At the best of times, the ‘creatives’ rarely make more than a struggling income, so they are finding it almost impossible now.
It is not surprising, therefore, that such people are increasingly moving to Hamilton**, Guelph, Kitchener, or other parts farther afield and less expensive. If you follow “urban trends”, you know that these places are beckoning, loud and clear. And they look increasingly attractive as they enhance their urbanity with more modern public transit and other perks. This is exciting to those looking in their direction. And these places are being enriched by ‘our’ artists, now transforming their neighbourhoods instead of ours.
Did we think these creatives would stay here forever to enrich our lives? Stuck here for the work? Dependent on us self-centered, comfortable people? Not any longer. Much of their functioning can be done online while they listen to the soft sounds of modern transit and watch ducks – from their charming, affordable, downtown apartments. Enriching Hamilton and Kitchener.
They are leaving this high-end city, its Yorkvilles, its expensive, increasingly packaged Hollywood entertainment, and the financiers and lawyers who can afford to live here.
But we still need to do something about those who must stay like my friend, who is still searching.