Each week, the editors of La Bohème newspaper pick a theme for their issue, and solicit real stories from real Torontonians. This week’s story: “The Rent Is Too Damn High”
Recently, Craigslist listed a semi-private studio apartment for $1,750/month. This apartment, which the ad described as being “full of character” and offering “a unique immersive experience of Toronto’s vibrant street life,” is actually an unroofed laneway off Brunswick Avenue.
“When you look around, there’s no realer place for a writer. This is what Balzac and Hugo were talking about,” Rodolfo said. An aspiring screenwriter, he rents the laneway with an OCAD student named Marcello, who is is transforming their refurbished furniture into an art project for GradEx. “It’s a conversation-starter with our guests. Or any pedestrians that wander into the laneway, really. And the silver lining is there’s always a parking space available. If we ever have a car, that’ll be cool.” Originally from Ottawa, Rodolfo was unfamiliar with Toronto’s neighbourhoods, but he’d seen Kids in the Hall, and, he said, “I pretty much knew I was going to live in the West End.”
Rodolfo continues, “The rent is pretty reasonable for this area.” He’d checked out one-bedroom apartments in Queen West, where the average monthly rent is $1,900 (plus utilities) a month. He almost signed one of those apartments but he didn’t have the necessary paperwork to close the deal: landlords now demand 10 post-dated cheques, first and last month’s rent, a cleaning deposit, a repair deposit (your landlord isn’t going to fix that thing on their own), a reference letter from all former employers going back five years, dental records, access to social media accounts and, in some cases, a fresh urine sample. So, Rodolfo eventually landed here: the Mirvish Village laneway with “unbeatable” rent.
The laneway is prone to intermittent power outages. The thin insulation makes heating a wild fantasy. (From the ad: “This laneway has EXPOSED BRICK! The brick from the outside of the building is visible from inside the laneway!!!”) The smell can only be described as “ripe.” And the landlord prefers the housemates have “NO guests and MUST be there as little as possible during the day.” But its location boasts the the Holy Trinity of “B’s” worshipped by every twentysomething: Beer, brunch, and BMV.
And, Rodolfo adds, “It could be worse. At least it’s not Liberty Village, right?”
When asked for comment, landlord Benoît Baule stated that he planned to raise the rent by $250 a month when the current lease expires in June.
In this issue, we tackle the beast that is the Toronto rental market (will it cool down with Ontario’s recently introduced Fair Housing Plan?), hear from the other side (the landlord), and profile broke folks still living large and aspiring to the bourgeois life.