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Vancouver Versus Toronto: Two Renters Talk About Who Has It Worse

The story in which Montreal finally wins.

by Manisha Krishnan and Lonnie Nadler
Aug 17 2016, 8:08pm


Original images via Creative Commons Flickr; photoshop by Ebony-Renee Baker

Drake or Swollen Members, Leafs or Canucks, Raptors or Grizzlies, CN Tower or Stanley Park. The East and West coast Canadian hubs have had plenty to squabble over in the past. Based on the list above, it seems Vancouver has been losing for some time. But there is one sad way Vancouver beats out Toronto, though it's nothing to brag about.

In recent years the insane cost of living in Vancouver and Toronto has become one of the most hotly debated issues in this country. Both cities take a strange pride in just how unaffordable it is to live within the city centre, as if it's hip to live in a place where you have to choose between paying rent or eating. Vancouver is well known around the globe for its housing crisis, but the reality is Toronto isn't far off. The cost of purchasing a house in both cities has become so insane that most millennials have been relegated to renting—forever. Unfortunately, now even the rental market has become a shit show of bidding wars and horror stories. Anyone who has looked for a new apartment in either city in the past year knows that it's become a competitive sport, and if you're not ready to throw some elbows and flash some cash, you might end up without a place to live.

So in the spirit of our constant battle to be the best at being the worst, here's a conversation between a Vancouverite and a Torontonian about which city is worse to rent in.


A person gazes out a window at the impossibly expensive Vancouver. Photo via Flickr user Blok 70

Lonnie Nadler: I just signed a lease this past weekend, after only two and half weeks of looking, and I feel like I got super lucky.

Manisha Krishnan: Why lucky, did you score a sweet deal? I also just signed a lease and I'm kinda panicking.

L: Yeah, I got a crazy deal... Like unheard of. But something about it doesn't feel entirely legit. We signed a custom lease, not a BC lease. Just hoping my stuff doesn't get jacked. Why are you panicking?

M: I want the details of this 'crazy deal'! Stop being coy. I'm panicking because I'm not sure if I made a mistake or not. Literally the outgoing tenant told me she sometimes sees random bugs and that I should probably keep looking. But it was a decent price in a good location so...

L: Alright, fine. It's a 900-square-foot, two bedroom place for $1,000. I think we got it because we showed up half an hour before the actual open house, and the landlord happened to be pulling up just as we arrived. I'd be panicking if I were you, too. "Random bugs" sounds horrifying.

M: What the FUCK. You are kidding? In Vancouver proper?

L: Yeah, it's in East Van. Five-minute walk to a major Skytrain stop.

M: That makes me feel like I'm doing something wrong with my life. Congrats though. Also, I found out the bugs aren't random—they're cockroaches. But I'm told it's not really an issue anymore. I asked a couple of the tenants there, one said he's seen two in the last seven months, and the other said he hasn't seen any.

L: I saw my fair share of shit places, and even signed another lease a few days before I signed the one I'm in now just because I was also panicking and thought I had to grab the first decent deal I saw. That landlord was not stoked when I said I don't want the place anymore. Two cockroaches in seven months is two more than I care to think about crawling on me while I sleep.


Nope. Photo via Flickr user Michael Lehenbauer

M: Yuck. I know. I honestly never thought I'd be one of those people who would put up with roaches, and who knows, maybe I'm not. I have kept looking for stuff on the off chance that I find something better but this place is my max, price-wise, and there's not a lot of stuff in Queen West that's comparable aside from basements or actual shit holes.

L: Well I'm rooting for you to find another semi-legit place at an affordable price. What's the worst place/person you came across in your search?

M: Tbh, it was a super-brief search. I pretty much made up my mind that I was going to take over my friend's bachelor, which is $800 a month, but then I saw this place, which is a one-bedroom for $1,200. His bach is alright, but it's pretty fucking tiny and it's so hot. I went by this week and he said it was 47 degrees inside. No AC. I just felt like I would've ended up moving out of there within a year anyway. How about you?

L: Forty-seven degrees is way too fucking hot. Like a sauna in there. My worst experience was at this place that advertised as a 900-square-foot for $850, and we went to check it out and it was max 400 square feet. There was probably about 30 people packed into this tiny apartment, all trying to suck up to the landlord as he was giving impromptu interviews on the balcony. After 20 minutes of waiting, one dude cut in front of me in line to say it was his turn next and, "I hope you won't make this an awkward argument." I just said, "Have at it."

M: Haha, yeah fuck that. A couple years ago, while I was hunting, I went to see a bedroom within a three-bedroom unit and in reality it was just like a bathroom with a dirty mattress inside. Then the roommate who was showing me around told me they all smoke inside. I'm a smoker but I could not deal with that.

L: Nothing like a chic bedroom/bathroom in one.

M: Literally shitting where you eat/sleep. (I eat in bed a lot.)

L: I actually think this past search was the easiest, and I chalk it up to having a girlfriend with me this time. Before I was looking for bachelors by myself and had a tough time getting anyone to call me back. At risk of sounding like an asshole, I don't think most people are keen on renting to a young dude with tattoos and a nose piercing.

M: I have legit thought about getting a boyfriend just to have someone to split rent with! This search was the easiest for me too though, because I wasn't looking for a place with a roommate. I am so over having roommates that I'm willing to either cut back on my spending or go into debt just to live alone. Not having to interview people and judge how good of a match you'd make made the process much easier.


Some Toronto condo you probably can't afford. Photo via Flickr user marc falardeau

L: Having roommates fucking blows. I moved into a place two years ago with this guy I didn't know. It was pretty good for the first few months, and then one night he bangs on my door at three in the morning with flesh melting off his hands because he set a fire trying to cook bacon in the oven. Never. Again.

M: That sounds like something I did when I lived with my mom—she eventually started removing the stove elements at night. My worst roommate experience was actually in Calgary, when I lived with a control freak engineer who blasted reggae music early morning and made me bend down onto the floor in front of him to mop up a couple drops of water. I didn't last very long. Mostly, I just want to be able to come home and not have to interact with anyone if I don't feel like it—which I rarely do.

L: The older I get, the less I feel like compromising my living habits. Never stoop to a reggae engineer!

M: Lol. You must have friends in Vancouver who've had a shitty time finding places? A lot of my friends there are thinking of moving farther out into the suburbs.

L: Oh dude, it's insane. In the last two months, three of my good friends have either moved or are moving to somewhere where buying a house doesn't cost a million fucking dollars. Lots of people moving to remote BC.

M: Yeahhhh. I lived with my parents when I was there so I never actually had to pay rent or deal with that whole hassle. I can't see myself moving back though. The prices in Vancouver almost desensitize you to how much real estate is actually supposed to cost. Having said that, Toronto isn't exactly bargain bin.

L: I also have a lot of friends here living with their parents, and these people are like lawyers and shit. I certainly don't advise moving here, though I don't think I want to leave.

M: Do you care about owning property?

L: I mean, I feel like I should because I'm an "adult" now, but I honestly don't think about it. Probably because it seems like such a pipe dream when I see the prices in Vancouver. You?

M: I mean, there's no way that I would ever be able to afford it in the near future. Probably true for most young journalists. My parents own some property though so I assume at some point, they'll hand it over. Like when they die.

L: Grim, but hilarious. My dad is currently selling the house I grew up in, so I don't know that banking on a will is my best bet. I'll never be a land owner.

M: In Van?

L: In Ottawa. The selling price of his four bedroom house would get you a bathroom/bedroom in Van.

M: Would you have sex for rent?

L: Only with my girlfriend. Does that count?

M: Cute answer, but no. My friend just visited from Brooklyn and told me her 50-something boyfriend that I met is actually her "daddy." And he was paying her rent for months (until she dumped him). And in response I logged onto the Seeking Arrangements website to see what was available in Toronto. But I wouldn't actually do it! (Probably.)

L: I mean, it doesn't sound like the worst arrangement. I know a couple people doing that with cougars in LA. I'd feel soooo greasy though.

M: It's less than ideal. Would 100 p rather live w/ the risk of an occasional cockroach.

L: What about sex with a cockroach for rent?

M: I just feel like it wouldn't work logistically, you know?

L: I could get into detail, but I feel like it would be taking this convo to a real dark place.

M: It's another VICE.com story for sure. I think maybe we should wrap this up, considering the level of dialogue...

L: ... Considering it's devolved to talking about insect sex.

M: Ya that's what I was getting at. I guess I'll check in with you in a few months and we'll find out if your landlord is some sort of sketchy front for a major drug operation or something.

L: And I'll check to see if you've solicited your body to the roaches yet.

Follow Manisha Krishnan and Lonnie Nadler on Twitter.