Canada: How four Gen Z roommates ‘get squishy’ to afford a downtown lifestyle - PressFrom - Canada
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CanadaHow four Gen Z roommates ‘get squishy’ to afford a downtown lifestyle

15:10  16 april  2019
15:10  16 april  2019 Source:   thestar.com

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For these four close friends in their late teens and early 20s, the answer to living downtown while keeping rent affordable is to get “ squishy .” In a two-bedroom-plus-den, two-bathroom apartment at Church and Shuter Sts., Totske, along with his roommates Dana Delaney, Luke Avoledo and Clare

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How four Gen Z roommates ‘get squishy’ to afford a downtown lifestyle © Kelsey Wilson Roommates (clockwise from top left) Dana Delaney, Clare Mulvale, Luke Avoledo and Jacob Totske sit on the couch in their shared 900-square-foot two bedroom plus den apartment at Church and Shuter Sts.

Jacob Totske has to be at least a little quiet when he comes home from his job at a King St. W. bar around 3 a.m. — his roommate is asleep in a twin bed just a foot away from his own in the bedroom they share.

Another is asleep in the master bedroom down the hall. And yet another dozes in a converted den just off the living room.

For these four close friends in their late teens and early 20s, the answer to living downtown while keeping rent affordable is to get “squishy.”

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"That is the most beautiful gift one can offer to a friend, a neighbour, a girlfriend or wife," the 71-year-old craftsman said. How four Gen Z roommates ‘ get squishy ’ For these four close friends in their late teens and early 20s, the answer to living downtown while keeping rent affordable is to get “ squishy .”

In a two-bedroom-plus-den, two-bathroom apartment at Church and Shuter Sts., Totske, along with his roommates Dana Delaney, Luke Avoledo and Clare Mulvale, have divided an approximately 900-square-foot apartment — and its $3,105 a month price tag — four ways.

“We all signed up for ‘let’s get squishy, let’s get comfortable,’” Avoledo, 19, says.

How four Gen Z roommates ‘get squishy’ to afford a downtown lifestyle © Kelsey Wilson Jacob Totske (left) and Dana Delaney sleep in twin beds in their shared bedroom.

After graduating from high schools outside of Toronto, the roommates who all work or go to school in the city turned to compact living as an alternative to staying at home with their parents and commuting, an increasingly difficult choice for young people in the city.

A downtown apartment, they say, gives them independence, and rooming together means they can keep rental costs down and invest more money into their lives.

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How four Gen Z roommates " get squishy " to afford a downtown lifestyle , via Toronto Star. At first glance, this story about four friends in their late teens and early 20s is nothing new: they live together in a cramped apartment, and two of them even share a room (each sleeping on their own twin bed).

In a small bedroom off the front entrance, Delaney, 19, and Totske, 21, have set up two nearly identical twin beds. The room is sparsely decorated with Polaroid photos and a string of fairy lights hung above the beds. They’ve split the closet in half, same with a shelving unit — with Delaney occupying the top two shelves and Totske the bottom. A side table is squeezed between the two beds, housing scented candles and a well-used Polaroid camera. They also share a bathroom off the front hall.

“As weird as it sounds, it’s worked out,” Totske says. “I don’t think we’ve really had like any actual living issues.”

Delaney, who works part-time at a real estate agency while pursuing psychology at Ryerson, says she’s not bothered by Totske’s late-night entrances, as she’s a heavy sleeper, and when Totske, who serves at a downtown pub, isn’t working they’re in sync.

“If we have a day off, we kind of do the same thing. We’ll wake up around the same time, we’ll eat around the same time,” she explains.

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“It sounds like we’re married,” Totske says. (They’re not a couple — nor is anyone in the house.)

Since neither of the roommates are currently dating, they have managed to skirt awkward conversations around privacy. However, if they need alone time in their shared room, they just ask for it. And when they’re together, they don’t feel obligated to entertain each other.

“We’re not always hanging out. Like I’d be on my bed and he’d be on his bed. We’re just kind of zoned out.”

Avoledo lives in the roughly 45-square-foot den, a room that’s likely intended to hold a small office but in which the second-year Ryerson media student has squeezed a twin bed and skinny Ikea bookshelf.

He occupies half of the front hall closet; the other half holds the group’s jackets and miscellaneous storage. And he shares the en suite bathroom in the master bedroom.

“I walk around here naked, my room is kind of far from the shower and the closet,” Avoledo jokes. “But I’ve got to do it!”

No one seems bothered by this. “What can you do about that?” Delaney says. “You just laugh about it ... It’s funny.”

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Mulvale, 20, a third-year media student at Guelph-Humber University, takes the master bedroom, a luxury for which she pays $900 a month — Delaney, Totske and Avoledo split the remaining rent equally, paying a total of $735 a month for their shares.

Their rent is close to average for a two-bedroom rental in downtown Toronto, according to market research firm Urbanation. Rentals out of the core are often cheaper and larger, but a two-bedroom apartment is still on average more than $2,700 monthly.

Ultimately, the roommates wanted a space that was central, so they could access their respective schools or jobs easily. It was also a cost-saving measure to have the apartment within walking distance to shopping and groceries.

“My big thing was I would like to put the $130 that would go into a metro pass into my rent and I can walk everywhere,” Avoledo says.

Totske, who shared a two-bedroom apartment with a single roommate farther west before moving into the Church St. apartment, agrees, adding the arrangement lets him be closer to work and the places he frequents.

The group’s lease is necessarily complicated. Due to their ages and lack of credit, a co-signer was needed for each of the roommates, so their parents are also named in the agreement.

Mulvale, who has a part-time, minimum wage retail job, says she’s “lucky to have my parents help me out a little bit.”

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“If didn’t have them help me out, there’s no way I could pay (rent) because I go to school five days a week and then after that, at least three days a week I go to work after (class),” she says.

In Toronto, nearly 35 per cent of 20- to 34-year-olds live at home, with even more living at home in wealthier neighbourhoods.

Avoledo and Delaney moved into the apartment in August 2017. The building manager agreed to allow the group — they shared with two other people — one lease reassignment if a roommate wanted to move out, a process they went through last summer when Totske and Mulvale moved in, replacing the two previous roommates who the current roommates say moved back in with their parents.

If another person would like to leave the living arrangement, the remaining roommates will have to reapply for their apartment at market cost, an increase of roughly $300 a month, according to open listings on their building’s website. The higher cost would potentially drive them out of the space, the roommates agree.

“My number (for rent) is $750 in stone,” Avoledo says. While they’re confident they could find another arrangement in the city, a worst-case scenario would see three of the roommates moving back in with their parents in Markham-Stouffville, and in Totske’s case, Waterloo — a situation they’d prefer to avoid.

Though their living arrangement is “very common,” says Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario staff lawyer Karen Andrews, a lot of people don’t tell their landlords for fear of being evicted for overcrowding.

A Toronto bylaw stipulates that a home cannot house more than one person per each nine square metres of floor space. Under the Landlord and Tenant act, a landlord could terminate a lease agreement if the number of people in a home becomes a health and safety hazard, or goes against housing bylaws. The National Occupancy Standard says that no more than two people should occupy a bedroom. Andrews says she has heard from tenants that there is pressure to not broadcast these multi-person arrangements.

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How to Evict a Roommate . Roommates can be beneficial in helping pay expenses and assist with If your roommate is not on the lease and you allowed them to move in without permission form the All tenants of a residence, whether they are on the lease or are not, are afforded some rights.

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But the move to sign the four roommates and each of their guarantors to the lease is a security benefit for both the landlord and tenants, Andrews says.

“Why does the landlord want all the names on the lease? Because if the rent is not paid, the landlord wants to be able to go after everybody or wants to go after the person that has the most money,” she says.

For the roommates, if just one person is on the lease, that person could evict their roommates by changing locks or putting all their items outside. “You would have to go to small claims court for the remedy,” Andrews says.

How four Gen Z roommates ‘get squishy’ to afford a downtown lifestyle © Kelsey Wilson Luke Avoledo sits on his bed located in the den. He doesn’t have a closet, and instead uses half the hall closet.

Andrews emphasized the prevalence of such housing situations for low-income earners and newly landed immigrants.

“If you’ve come to Canada and you’ve got a low wage job and the apartment is $3,000 a month,” people will look for ways to save on costs, she says. “And so two families are occupying an apartment that was meant for one family,” Andrews says.

The Star has previously reported on such living arrangements. Over a third of GTHA residents in one-bedroom apartments live in unsuitable housing.

Single family dwellings have become “completely unrealistic with the housing pressure in today’s market,” Andrews says.

“I think people need a decent amount of space and privacy to live a decent life. And I don’t think that’s asking a lot.”

How four Gen Z roommates ‘get squishy’ to afford a downtown lifestyle © Kelsey Wilson The roommates split the $3,105 a month price tag four ways, with one paying more to live in the master bedroom — though she still shares the en suite washroom with another person.

Jenna Moon is a digital producer and contributing writer based out of Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @_jennamoon.


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