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‘Wallet-bursting’ housing costs have some Torontonians ditching the city for cheaper pastures

Mauro Quattrochi is facing a decision shared by many in Toronto: commit to a “wallet-bursting life in the city, or a car-bound, almost-as-expensive life outside it?”

Quattrochi, an engineer living in downtown Toronto, says the mortgage cost on his condominium townhouse will skyrocket upon renewal next year.

“We’re staring down the barrel of an economic gun,” Quattrochi told CTV News Toronto.

He wants to start a family with his partner, “but with the costs of food, childcare, and general daily living,” the path forward for the couple isn’t so clear.

Quattrochi’s downtown condo can be seen above. (Handout)

It’s a dilemma shared by residents across Toronto – renters and homeowners, alike – amid skyrocketing costs.

According to a new report by real estate listing site Zoocasa, the cost of living in Toronto went up nearly 20 per cent between 2017 and 2022, bringing the average price of a home in nearly half of Toronto’s neighbourhoods to over $2 million.

If prices rise by an average of 5.6 per cent per year between now and then, in just ten years, $2 million will be the average mark for all homes across the city, the company projects.

Homeowners aren’t alone in the struggle, either – renters are also feeling the crunch. Between 2016 and 2021, average rental prices in Ontario rose by nearly 30 per cent. With the average Toronto two-bedroom apartment currently going for just over $3,000 a month, some renters are looking elsewhere.

But the decision to leave the city doesn’t come easily for all – moving to the suburbs or a smaller town requires a lifestyle change.

“Most small towns look the same,” Quattrochi said. “A sea of suburbs, a downtown strip of two-story 1900s buildings, a sprawling industrial district, smart centres, and highways, highways, highways.”

Bay and Front streets in downtown Toronto (CP PHOTO/Kevin Frayer)

Brad Burgess, born and raised in Toronto, gave up city living with his wife late last year and bought a home in the Maritimes.

In late 2023, Burgess said they were served an eviction notice, forcing them from their rental of more than a decade on the Danforth.

Reentering the housing market for the first time in over 10 years, Burgess, working as an assistant crown attorney at the time, said he and his wife were “shocked” at the price of a comparable unit.

“To rent, we would be looking at probably north of $3,000 and I was not willing to pay that amount. It’s outrageous,” Burgess said in an interview. “And then to buy a house, I don’t think we could have swung anything actually in the city – maybe in the GTA, but we’d be house-poor

“And I’d have to commute all the way downtown every day.”

So, Burgess returned with his wife to her childhood province of New Brunswick, purchasing a home in Moncton that was mortgage-free.

“What I don’t miss, number one, is the outrageous cost of living and number two, the crime,” he said.

“What I do miss is being able to walk out my front door and have everything right there. We lived on the Danforth, so you could walk to little bars, restaurants, grocery, whatever. Whereas here, you have to drive everywhere.”

Danforth Avenue can be seen above. (Broadview Danforth BIA/Facebook)

Petya Stavreva, another lifelong Toronto resident, moved to Alberta last August, she told CTV News.

Before the move, Stavreva had rented an apartment with her husband in the city; “It was a one-bedroom basement apartment, 500 square feet, with no real windows,” she said.

They wanted to purchase a home, but property in the city was out of reach. “So, it really didn’t take long to make the decision and execute it.”

The couple loaded up their car and drove to Edmonton “without thinking twice.”

Now, they live 20 minutes from downtown in a five-bedroom house with a backyard. Their mortgage payments, she said, only cost them $200 more than their past rent payments. “In Toronto, this was simply impossible to achieve,” Stavreva said.

Petya Stavreva can be seen above alongside her husband (Handout)

“We took a giant risk and left everything we’d known, left our friends and some family, to start a new life. I would never, ever, ever, ever go back to Toronto,” she continued.

“Life is too short to spend it living like that, it’s not worth it.”

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