Here is something I haven’t been able to write about until now.
When my wife died in 2021 (see my July 23/21 post about her), I lived alone another 10 mths in our 2 bedroom apt paying $2,080 mth for it. When I began searching for an affordable replacement in February last year, I was unsuccessful, but I naievely decided that I would abandon the apt to live in Airbnbs/hotels until I got a place. After all, how long could it take? Would you believe 7 months?
Yes, from May 1st to Nov 30th last year I lived in Airbnbs and hotels, moving again and again.
To start with, I had to put most of my belongings into storage, which cost me another $200 mth. Also, if like me you want your own entrance, in Toronto you pay well in excess of $2000 mth for what is usually a small basement apartment.
One of the problems of doing this is that Airbnb want you out on the last day of the month, so the hosts can do their cleaning, but, if you have been able to book another, you aren’t allowed into it until the first day of the month. So, unless you want to go and sleep on someone’s floor (which I’ve done often enough in my life, but at 76 years old not anymore), you have to book a hotel for that night. In the Toronto area, with parking, that’s $100 minimum. The result was that, in my attempt to escape paying $2,080 month rent, over the next 7 months I paid an average of $2300/mth to have a place to live.
Do you think I was doing something unusual? Not at all. You’d be surprised how many people are living in long-term Airbnbs who don’t want to be. We’re people with a bit too much money to get help through welfare, which in most jurisdictions is overwhelmed already, but not enough to qualify for a rental in a big city.
One of the reasons that it’s difficult to hunt for another apt in this context is that, if you want your own Airbnb entrance, you’ve got to book it by the middle of each month. After that, those apts are all gone. And the first month of Airbnb bookings is non-refundable so for half the month there is no point in going to see apartments for rent.
We compete with each other. For example, although I was quite happy with the little apt I occupied in July/August, and though the owner and I had become good friends, I couldn’t rebook it because a teacher in another city, who is only able to get short-term contract work, had booked it in the spring for 4 mths starting in September, his next contract.
Then, when on Oct 14th I tried to rebook another unit that I was now in, I discovered that someone else already had a request in for it, blocking my request. But the host of the unit preferred me, since I was a known quantity with good Airbnb reviews, so he refused to accept the other’s booking. But this person refused to withdraw – people get desperate – so I only got November booked at the last moment.
And let me not even get started on the problems that arise when you don’t have a permanent address. You’re often perceived by corporations/institutions as someone invisible.
And don’t talk to me about senior apartments. There are three buildings in Toronto that I spent a year trying to get in. Toronto senior buildings reserve 1/3 of the units for people who qualify for govt subsidy. But if you do qualify, the waiting list is years – 5 yrs at one of those buildings. Meanwhile the other units do become vacant and are rented out, but how you get one is still a mystery to me. I suspect it is a ‘who you know’ situation, and I didn’t know anyone.
How did I get out of this? By accepting that living in the Toronto area is no longer a possibility for me. I live now in Listowel, Ontario, a town of 12,000 people that is a 2 hr drive north-west of Toronto. For $1320 month here, I get a one bedroom apt on the ground floor of a three story building, surrounded by many trees, where I can feed Juncos, cardinals and field sparrows who come to my patio door looking for hand-outs each time there is a snow storm.
In Toronto I was rejected last March for a ground floor studio apt, quite small, with only one closet, on the grounds that my income wasn’t high enough to pay the rent of $1450 (never mind that I had paid $2080 mth for most of the previous year, and was now paying $2300 mth). In Listowel the locals probably consider my $1320 exorbitant, but after the financial battering I’ve undergone over the past two years it feels like a dream come true to me.
This strange out-of-control housing/rental market we’re in almost world-wide, appears to exist primarily because real-estate has become the preferred investment of the wealthy. In a financially turbulent world, real-estate is the safest bet, or so they think. One study done in Canada last year found that approximately 20% of the money going into Canadian real estate from outside the country appeared to be laundered money. That’s one reason why our current liberal government has banned foreign ownership of residences, a welcome move even though it has been long-coming.
Meanwhile, as you can see here, this new financial boom is producing all kinds of bizarre stress and a declining lifestyle for most people.
How will this all end? I don’t know, but when it does I have no intention of moving again. I’ll stay here and feed my new sparrow, cardinal and junco companions.