Holding a lease

The period since at least July 22nd has been so consistently busy that I haven’t had time to pause and think any of it through.

There are photos from the Yellowknife to Vancouver drive and from my time in Vancouver.

The one big Toronto achievement is that now, for the first time since I came to the city in 2011, I am on the lease for a place to live. It’s expensive (adding to the urgency of the job hunt) but I have protected long-term legal status there. After having to move probably 40 or more times during the PhD, it will be a comfort to have a place I can more fully rely upon.

Still Robarts-ing

After defending my dissertation in December and collecting my diploma in March, I have been watching my U of T benefits gets deactivated one by one. They cut off my dental insurance between when I defended and when I graduated. My campus wifi access was withdrawn several months ago. As of July, my T-card no longer provided access to Robarts or Gerstein libraries.

I feel it would be a shame to live in a city with a library system like U of T’s and be unable to access it. Luckily, as an alumnus I can get a borrower card for $70 per year. It comes with the very annoying restrictions of no campus wifi use, and no off-campus access to electronic databases — but it does provide access to all U of T libraries, allows you to withdraw fifty (50!) books, and allows access to services like research consultations. I now officially have permission to use U of T’s vast library resources to research anything of personal interest or importance. It’s also a great place to hide from summer heat if you don’t have AC at home.

Open thread: The worldwide crisis for renters

When people hear about my miserable 4-month search for an afforadle, available, and non-awful room to rent in Toronto, the glib answer is often that I should leave the city. After all, Toronto’s housing market is notoriously punishing.

I call the answer glib because it doesn’t reflect much awareness of what is also happening in potential alternative cities. Vancouver is about 10% more expensive, and cities with far fewer employment options like Guelph, Hamilton, and Barrie are only marginally cheaper. The crisis for renters is both multi-causal and global.

For instance: The UK housing crisis isn’t just about mortgages – private renters desperately need help too (“Three-fifths of private renters cannot afford a decent standard of living”)

2023 mayoral by-election

Sometimes the student life of unstable and often-changing housing makes it hard to vote, but I was able to do so easily in today’s Toronto mayoral by-election using my student co-op short-term residency agreement and health card.

I was surprised a couple of weeks ago to see how closely my Vote Compass answers matched up to Olivia Chow, and I was happy to vote for her today and see her win tonight.

The results — left-leaning in the urban core, right-leaning in the suburbs — fit into a major and long-running electoral pattern. In the Toronto case particularly, I will confess to having little sympathy who are willing to let infrastructure and city services decay for the sake of low taxes. It is the dynamism of Toronto that attracts people to all those endless suburbs, and they are killing the golden goose by allowing the city to fall into decay for the sake of lower taxes. If you want ultra-low taxes and no services, go start a subsistence farm in a rural area. If you just want a giant rural-style house from which to drive your SUV to your job at the bank downtown, you need to pay taxes at a level that keeps the city going. You might feel like a capitalist superman who shouldn’t be weighed down by funding parasites, but all that money you’re making comes from the economic dynamism of a place where individual prosperity normally relies upon good underlying social conditions. Things have clearly been badly eroded by the psychological harm of the pandemic, and it will take investments in areas like social services to the unhoused and mental health supports to get Toronto back to where it was pre-2020.

It’s an open question how an ideological sandwich of municipal, provincial, and federal governments will work for Toronto, but at least we don’t have another low-tax ideologue as mayor.

A trend that apparently cannot be sustained

The timing of me getting pushed out of 611A Marlee Avenue seems to have been especially bad.

I have been room-hunting for months now, and what I have mostly seen has been individual rooms in shared apartments for around $1500 and up. That means paying more for a room than I ever have for a whole apartment, and so far none of the rooms I have seen have actually been desirable to live in.

My evening-rest and sleep to meet

I have been finding it rather hard to rest and focus. My temporary accomodation doesn’t so much feel like a home as like a temporary platform from which to urgently seek housing.

I know the long-standing expectation going back decades is that Toronto and Vancouver have challenging housing markets, but things feel like they have been pushed to a higher level. Increasingly for people around me, housing has become the single most determinative factor in their lives, including in whether they have the stability to pursue sounder finances through job progression or education. The way the housing market is operating is strangling the dreams of young people, while leaving them uncertain about whether they can have any kind of desirable future at all.

Things I am seeking

Life now chiefly consists of three tasks:

  1. Finding somewhere permanent to live as soon as possible, but ideally by August 1st and by necessity by August 28th when non-students must leave the co-op
  2. Finding any employment to help defer the costs of living
  3. Finding long-term employment in the fight against climate change, perhaps most plausibly in the clean energy sector

I don’t think life has ever been so open-ended and unanchored for me, which is disorienting and worrisome when there are so many problems in the world and among people who I know.

The most sustainable option for housing would be finding a 3 bedroom unit along with two other people and getting on a formal lease. That would finally free me from the uncertainty I had at 410 Markham and 611A Marlee, where I was only safe as a tenant as long as a prior flatmate who the landlords allowed on the lease was there.

Of course, finding two other people and a place all at the same time is quite a coordination problem. I am also open to an affordable 2 bedroom unit with a lease and a suitable flatmate. I also need to consider just taking over a room in an existing place, given how little time I have to search, but that would likely mean being put back in the precarious situation of an off-lease tenant which has made housing into the stress volcano that I live on top of since Pieter Basedow’s worst abuses began in February 2018.

Theoretically I could stretch to finding a cheap place on my own, but (a) every $100 per month matters in terms of retaining a low cost of living and sustaining resources for future troubles and (b) provided they are conscientious and respectful of privacy, I prefer having the unobtrusive company of flatmates to being alone.

Back to the Claireville conservation area

We had to cancel a planned long weekend camping trip near Temagami because everyone is in crisis, but at least today I got a hike with three friends in the Claireville conservation area, a half hour bus ride west of Vaughan Metro Centre.

I appreciated the forested areas around shallow creeks, the frogs croaking in the marshes, and the bright weather which was neither unpleasantly hot nor oppressively humid. Strangely enough, the one unlocked bathroom we found was even air conditioned.