2021 Torr Barren AC portrait2 croppedHere 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.

4 thoughts on “Rescuing Reality | My life in Airbnbs

  1. I can empathize with you regarding your housing woes. The Canadian housing situation is a fiasco. The government has done a completely unsatisfactory job of handling it. Whatever steps ate taken may be too little too late. Furthermore I fail to see how setting record-breaking immigration targets for the next couple of years is going to help resolve the crisis.
    I’m glad you finally found a place in a small town away from the hustle and bustle of the city and with nature at your doorstep.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Patrick – I agree with you re immigration – I’m all for it, but we have to be ready for it. I don’t understand why housing is such a problem to solve – it’s pretty simple really.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Apart from the first 15 months of our marriage, we have never lived in rented accomodation. Back in the early 1970s in NZ, it was possible to build a first home with a government backed mortgage of up to 90% of the value of the home. One only needed to own the land on which to build it. However with a little bit of out of the box thinking it was possible to build a home with only a few hundred dollars at hand. When we decided to build our first home, we had less than $300 in the bank and no land. However we found a piece of land in a poorer less desirable section of the city, that we bought on a 5% deposit with the balance being paid over 20 years (approximately $70 per year). We found a builder that was willing to build to a “closed in” stage and we finished off the interior ourselves over the next two years while living in it, not even having interior wall linings at first. So that first home was built in an initial investment of $200 and a $9000 mortgage.

    That was the first step on the property ladder and we would never had made the first rung if we weren’t willing to move into a less desirable part of town and build using the cheapest materials available. We “upgraded” twice over the next 12 years using the difference between the selling price of the previous home and the balance on the mortgage as a deposit on the next. Now, 50 years later, we’re mortgage free and in our fourth home of 330 square metres (approximately 3300 square feet) currently valued at a million dollars ($992,000 to be precise), thanks to our initial out of the box thinking, but mainly thanks to rampant inflation in the 1970s and 1980s.

    Our current incomes are very modest (mine’s $1000 per month and the wife’s around $1200) and we consider ourselves very fortunate as we don’t need to pay rent or mortgage. Rent for a very modest two bedroom home in our town of 18,000 people costs $1400 to $1500 per month, which wouldn’t leave us enough to live on. As it is, we live comfortable if somewhat modest lives, and the equity in the house should provide us with more than enough reserves if/when we need to move into some form retirement village or aged care. And if we did want to splash out on a new car or a world trip or simply have a bigger monthly income, then we could always take out a reverse mortgage.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do envy you Barry, but there is a lot of interesting information here. I’m wondering what the New Zealand $ was worth in USDs in the ’70s. In Canada, at least in the Toronto area in the early ’70s, people were buying existing houses for $30,000, when the Canadian $ was equal to the US – now we are down to 73 cts last time I looked, due primarily to the world financial turmoil that always produces a craving for the US$. Re reverse mortgages, I can see why a home owner might find them useful, but overall they seem to be a pernicious development, a key part of the decline of the middle class, at least in North America.

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