Lower Rent, Less Household Chores: Why Adult Dorm Living Might Be The Solution For Toronto Millennials Who Need Affordable Housing

Hubert de Blignières does not want to move furniture and crockery and he especially does not want to face problematic roommates.

So, for most of the past two years, de Blignières, 35, has rented a room in a fully furnished, shared four-story townhouse in Toronto’s Junction neighborhood, where he’s also working to start a business.

He rented the master bedroom before the pandemic prompted him to return to his hometown of Paris. Now that he’s back in Toronto, he’s renting a second bedroom for $ 1,600 a month, and he’s laughing at the idea of ​​renting his own apartment.

In a city where one-bedroom apartments cost on average more than $ 2,000 a month, more and more businesses are betting on co-living – an adult version of dorm life – to take off in Toronto as in other expensive places. like San Francisco and New York.

A Toronto developer has already submitted plans to build a cohabitation community in the Weston area, while another New York-based cohabitation company plans to bring 650 units here.

Cohabitation spaces, where adults rent a room in a townhouse or shared apartment for less than they would pay for a one-bedroom apartment or studio, often come with other perks, such as dry cleaning, upscale amenities and – something many single Torontonians missed out on during the pandemic – business.

The house in Blignières currently shared with two other people is operated by a company called Sociable Living, one of the city’s first coliving operators. It’s cleaned weekly and stocked regularly with everyday items, toilet paper, and shampoo to dish soap – everything except food.

” It’s very useful. I hate moving in. I hate furniture so it’s super easy for me. The location is the best. I’m 15 minutes from the airport – the UP (Express) train, it’s amazing, ”he said.

Three or four tenants, depending on the size of the townhouse – matched by Sociable Living – share a common kitchen, living room, rooftop patio, and in some cases, a bathroom.

Co-living remains relatively unknown in Toronto, but that is changing.

Toronto developer EDEV is proposing a nine-story building on Weston Road, north of Denison Road East, which would combine 26 cohabitation apartments with 16 traditional apartments. The proposal is before the Etobicoke Community Council on Monday.

New York-based cohabitation company Common is also developing 650 units here, though it doesn’t say where or when it expects these to be built. In the meantime, she designs and manages a mixed-use building in Ottawa as part of a development planned by Dreams Unlimited.

Common says its co-living rooms are renting about 15 to 25% less than a studio in the same neighborhood.

“I see so many similarities in the housing crisis in Toronto with what we’ve seen in places like New York and Seattle, where Common has been able to add more housing and feasible options for tenants,” said the CEO Brad Hargreaves in an email responding to Star questions.

EDEV cohabitation expert Vanessa Flint said that while young adults will remember the sense of community from their college years, modern cohabitation spaces are very different from dorms or rooming houses.

These are beautifully designed homes that offer everything from luxury finishes and premium coffeemakers to services like dry cleaning pickup, parcel delivery, and apps that unlock doors or alert management when something needs to be done. be repaired.

“It appeals to a whole generation that uses Uber to get around, uses Uber Eats to have their food delivered every night. They live and enjoy life and have experiences, ”said Flint.

The concept is most appealing, she said, to a mobile generation who don’t expect to work in one place all their careers, who are less about possession and more concerned with sustainability, so that ‘she doesn’t necessarily want to buy her own devices. and dishes.

“It’s not because they can’t afford it. It’s because they don’t want it. They don’t want to spend such a large percentage of their income on housing costs, ”Flint said.

EDEV says Weston is appealing to tenants among the 50,000 workers in the Pearson Airport area and those who want to get downtown in 15 minutes.

Roman Bodnarchuk, the founder of Sociable Living, won’t say how many townhouses his company rents as cohabitation spaces in downtown Junction and on Berkeley Street or in its expanded markets in Miami and Costa Rica.

“What I can tell you is that in our very first year (2019) we had over 100 residents,” he said.

Sociable Living tenants commit to a minimum stay of three months, but there is no longer a fixed-term lease. Although there are exceptions, Bodnarchuk prefers renting to singles. Couples tend to stay and cook every night, so they end up dominating the refrigerator space, he said.

Sociable Living solves a lot of rental problems, explains Bodnarchuk. Newcomers to the city face a very competitive rental market.

“Unless you have a great credit history, you won’t get room,” he said.

Then there are the expenses: “Let’s say you saw a one-bedroom apartment for $ 1,750. It sounds appealing. Except you didn’t factor in about $ 15,000 of things you need to live, ”he said.

It’s a huge investment in an odd-job economy, says Bodnarchuk. He says Sociable Living saves its tenants an average of $ 500 per month on furniture and housekeeping costs.

“All you really need is a suitcase. We pay for all utilities. We have the fastest internet in town. We have Netflix and 65 inch smart TVs. These are all the best things, but it’s stress free, ”he said.

One of the biggest benefits of living together is that it provides instant community, which Bodnarchuk says is rare in apartments and condos.

“Loneliness is an epidemic. It’s worse than smoking and people don’t even talk about it, ”he said. “That’s why everyone in Toronto has a dog. That’s how they solve the problem – with an animal. We do it with humans and I think it’s very powerful.

He expects a calendar of regular social events, which were put on hold during the pandemic, to be reinstated in January.

With the exception of one, de Blignières says he has befriended all of the tenants who have moved into his townhouse.

“I am French from France. We are used to sharing everything, ”explains de Blignières. But, for coliving to work, respect for the shared space.

“We have to be able to communicate and tell each other when there is something we are doing that is bothering the other, explaining to new people how it works – living with certain rules in a community,” he said. .

“When people listen to that, it’s really amazing. It’s really fun, ”said de Blignières, who recently enjoyed jam sessions with a new roommate, who plays guitar.

“We’re having a great time together,” he said of his two current roommates.

Bodnarchuk says he’s only ever had one roommate situation gone wrong. But there is always an empty room available so that if something goes wrong, someone can be immediately moved to a house in the same area.

Sociable Living is “creating a modern family,” he said. New tenants undergo the usual criminal record check and an interview with their future roommates, who can give a favorable opinion to a new arrival. But a modern family needs modern methods, and Bodnarchuk also uses artificial intelligence (AI) to match tenants.

“It sounds scary, but it’s not,” he said. The AI ​​“reads all the social media posts you’ve posted on any platform. So in seconds (he) can read all Facebook, Twitter and Google messages. Based on the words and how often you use, it’s incredibly accurate at predicting your personality type. We can overlay that with the other roommates. We will know in seconds whether it will work or not, ”he said.

Flint points out that coliving has been around forever. The last format is motivated by changing lifestyles.

“A many young professionals wish to live in urban areas. Still, going and looking for a one bedroom (apartment) on their own is quite expensive, ”she said.

Coliving is a relatively affordable alternative.


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