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LETTER: In the end, everybody loses in ruthless housing market

Whether it’s a home, an apartment, or a bedroom, the housing market has moved disproportionately in favour of landlords who are cashing in, letter writer says
2021-04-14 House key
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Imagine having something — that you have no immediate use for — that many other people want. People come to you, begging for this thing, waving money in your face in desperation.

It becomes more evident with each passing moment that perhaps you’ve underestimated the value of this object.

You’re really interested in capitalizing on this moment because... how often does an opportunity like this come along? Owning something of this much value is equivalent to hitting the lottery.

This is the situation many homeowners across Ontario — and North America — currently find themselves in. They have something many do not: a surplus of housing.

Whether it’s a full home, an apartment, or even a single bedroom, the housing market has moved disproportionately in favour of landlords who are, of course, using this opportunity to make bank. They’re doing this without considering the long-term consequences of inflation or of the people who are being hurt by their actions and choices.

“Everyone else is doing it, so why shouldn’t I?”

The answer, of course, is sustainability. Housing prices have passed the point of affordability. While a single individual with a full-time job at minimum wage may have been able to afford a single bedroom apartment five years ago, with an admittedly limited quality of life, they could at the very least take solace in having a roof over their head. This is no longer true.

The average market price for rentals in Orillia, for a one-bedroom apartment, is roughly $1,600 a month. An individual working 40 hours a week at $15.50 brings in roughly $1950 a month after taxes. That’s $350 a month for groceries, phone and internet, and any other necessities their life may require. That’s a hard budget to live by.

Let’s switch perspectives: you’re now an optimist and an expert on living on a shoe-string budget and feel like this is a choice you can live with. You start shopping around for a new home and… the cracks begin showing — literally — because the homes that are in that “affordable” price-range are often not in the greatest condition.

However, you persevere, and after months you find a decent place at the right price. You meet with the landlord and view the property. You fall in love and begin mentally unpacking. You’re ready to sign immediately at the agreed upon price in the advertisement.

Unfortunately, the home-owner met with seven other people exactly like you just that day. They might suggest the next fairest method to decide who is most deserving of the home: personalized interviews and reference checks to determine compatibility, reliability, cleanliness, or any other considerations that may be applicable.

Just kidding. They use the opportunity to start a bidding war. They pit your desperation against the desperation of those other nice applicants. The person willing to sacrifice the most wins, regardless of circumstance.

This mindset would be fine in a more stable market; if we were talking about really nice places and expenditures with more frivolity, but these are situations where people are on the brink of or already experiencing homelessness. People for whom time is running out, because sustaining a job while homeless is a near impossible task, especially in this work-from-home environment.

That’s not even considering the impact on our most vulnerable or families. This is from the perspective of a gainfully employed, meaningfully contributing citizen.

Imagine having something that many other people want and choosing to see only how you can benefit from that.

If that keeps you up at night… be thankful you at least have a comfortable place to rest your head.

Michael Simonds
Orillia

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