Since leaving Aurora, Ont., six years ago to go to university in Vancouver, B.C., 23-year-old Riley Cunningham has moved around the city five times.
“I didn’t realize how expensive it is to live here,” she/they said, speaking to Global News on Sunday.
Most places Cunningham has come across have been way too expensive or have come with problems.
Since moving to Vancouver, Cunningham has lived in two basements, one without windows or a closet, and another without a kitchen or laundry. Another apartment had spiders.
“I’ve definitely felt discriminated against. There’s this stereotype that young people, especially students, love to party and can create a mess,” she/they said.
Now looking for another new place, Cunningham is waitering at two jobs six days a week and is still finding it hard to save money, especially with student debt looming.
“I’m trying to look very carefully, plan my next move and hope that it won’t ruin me financially,” she/they said. “I’m hoping that I’ll get to stay in the city that I love and that I don’t get priced out.”
Across Canada, cities big and small have become unaffordable for young people to live in, according to the recent Youthful Cities Real Affordability Index.
Young people in Canada aged 15 to 29 have been the hardest hit by the pandemic and are most likely to work in the service industry, run up an average deficit of $750 a month living in cities, as found in a report, presented by RBC Future Launch. This is how much on average young residents are losing living in Canadian cities each month.
And, their salaries aren’t keeping up with the cost of living. Even when young people aren’t employed full-time, two-thirds of Canadian cities are still unaffordable, the index found.
“Affordability shouldn’t only be about the basic necessities for survival,” says Claire Patterson with Youthful Cities. “Affordability should also include the ability to pay for those things that contribute to the vibrancy of a person’s life when they are able to move forward and meet those key milestones we view as signs of success. In today’s Canadian cities opportunities to thrive simply aren’t equally accessible to all young people.”
Realtors like Kelly Caldwell in Guelph, Ont., have seen how hard it is for young people to live in Canadian cities.
“There’s a few ways in which it’s hard,” she told Global News. “I think the first is just the inventory. It always seems like we have a shortage of good rental properties.”
“I don’t know a lot of cities off-hand where there’s an abundance of rentals. It’s quite the opposite,” Caldwell added.
Another hurdle is the cost.
“The actual cost of rent has skyrocketed,” Caldwell said. “Especially for young people, if they’re even thinking about home ownership or trying to save for a down payment, it seems pretty out of reach.”
Nancy Worth, associate geography professor at the University of Waterloo, has seen the same challenges in Canadian cities.
“I’m hearing it from lots of different young people, mostly how much it is but also the lack of stock,” Worth told Global News.
In cities like Halifax, Nova Scotia, young people rack up an average deficit of just over $1,290 a month. In Toronto, the average deficit sits at $1,121 a month.
Meanwhile, in Quebec City, the average deficit is way lower at $314.50 a month.
Experts like Caldwell warn young people to properly pitch yourself as a tenant when applying to live somewhere.
“You’ve got to sell yourself to stand above the crowd because plenty of people won’t,” she said. “Plenty of people will just throw in an application.”