The Toronto Real Estate Board released its December numbers and Toronto house prices rose 16% in 2019. So that “it’s got potential” $762,000 average home you were looking at last Christmas will now set you back $885,000. The amount of household income spent on a home is continuing to worsen and trending towards affordability issues of the late eighties.
In unaffordable cities it’s fair to ask if living in smaller spaces, even by self-proclaimed minimalists, is a lifestyle ‘choice’ or rather a necessary mind shift to keep smiling through a lack of other realistic options.
Given home prices, it’s no surprise that condos are the fastest growing segment in Toronto and that condo kids are becoming common place. No longer the high-story landscape of young urbanites and down-sizers, condos are increasingly long-term family homes. Family apartment living is familiar in other large established centres but new to Toronto. The square footage offered on new condos is not geared to families, unless they ‘want’ (aka have no other option) to embrace minimalism.
With historically low vacancy rates still driving rents, you won’t do much better in the rental market where average rent increased by about 7% and a 1-bedroom costs $1350 monthly. People who have otherwise outgrown their spaces can’t move and lose their locked-in lower rents. (CMHC rental market report https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/data-and-research/publications-and-reports/rental-market-reports-major-centres)
We love our neighbourhood, the walkable restaurants, parks and library. The low chained linked fences that build community across tiny city yards (I’ve passed a toddler to a willing neighbour on many an occasion while I ran inside to retrieve a waking baby or stir a pot of soup).
But I have also pined for a second bathroom. Heck I’d take one bathroom if it was big enough for me to stretch out my arms without touching the walls. And my family are among the privileged ones with some equity. We bought seven years ago when houses, albeit small ones like ours, could be had for under half a million. With only 5% down, we now own a good portion of our home thanks to rising prices. Those same rising prices that have pushed family and friends out of the core.
I do wonder though if my attempt to live more minimally would have happened organically had upsizing been on the table. Would I feel the impulsive need to purge and limit if not for fear of reaching capacity in our home?
For the planet, for less stress and so many other reasons reducing our consumption makes sense. But who am I to question the knick knacks of suburbanites and moralise on it when really, what ‘choice’ was there behind my lifestyle?