This Problem Is Getting Serious

Homelessness is growing, couch-surfing is growing and this will have a lot of pressure on families and on the city itself.
Homelessness is growing, couch-surfing is growing and this will have a lot of pressure on families and on the city itself.

Debbie Ross has the same chance of snagging an affordable apartment in Toronto as she does picking a long-shot at the Kentucky Derby.

Ross is hoping to win one of 75 rental apartments in a lottery run by the city’s public housing agency. She’s up against 3,779 others, so the odds of winning are only about 50:1 but figures it’s as good a chance as any of finding a place to live.

Long priced out of home ownership, Ross is now being squeezed out of the rental market as the country’s biggest population boom since 1957 sends prices surging in Canada’s biggest city.

The 56-year-old unemployed office worker pays $1,026 (US$776) for her one-bedroom apartment. Her savings and unemployment insurance are running out and she’s been looking for a cheaper place but units that were in her price range only a few years ago have nearly doubled.

“It’s so stressful and I suffer from heart palpitations and anxiety,” said Ross from her 24th-floor apartment where hanging plants and bright cushions create a refuge in a dingy building in constant combat with pest infestations.

As U.S. President Donald Trump has clamped down on high-tech visas and amped up the anti-immigration rhetoric Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has taken a more welcoming approach. Canada took in a record 413,000 people from abroad in the year through July 1, pushing population growth to 1.4 per cent, the fastest in the Group of Seven.

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