Fun & Fabulous

It’s not me, it’s you Toronto!

The lack of social connections and unaffordable housing means saying goodbye to this global city
Breaking up with Toronto
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Like the giant duck towed into Lake Ontario for Canada Day and then towed away when the celebration was over, are we all just outsiders living in “the Six” (as Toronto is known by the cool kids on the west coast)?

It’s how Terrence Ross felt when he and his family decided to set down roots in the city’s famous 416 area-code after being drafted by the Raptors in 2012. But, like Terrance, who was traded to Orlando’s Magic, many end up leaving Toronto.

According to Statistics Canada’s inter- and intraprovincial migrant report, Toronto topped the list of cities where people are leaving in the years 2011 to 2015. According to this report, almost 30,000 people left the city each year between 2011 and 2015. While there are many reasons for this migration away from the largest city in Canada, one thing is clear: Some people are truly breaking up with the

Here are four good reasons as to why we need to break up Toronto:

Spend more than two-thirds of your income on a home

breaking up with Toronto. woman paying mortgage. high housing costs
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It’s not cheap being a homeowner in Canada, but the proposition of property is mighty challenging in a hot real estate market like Toronto. According to a June 2017 Royal Bank report, “ a typical Canadian household would have spent a troubling 45.9% of its income to cover the ownership costs for an average home bought in the first quarter of 2017.”

Things were even worse in Toronto as the spring housing market prompted home prices to peak at astronomical levels. As a result, the housing affordability measure for the city—a ratio based on the costs of owning a detached bungalow at market value—rose to its highest recorded level since RBC first began recording this data in 1985. By the end of the spring 2017 market, Toronto’s housing affordability reached 72%, beating the previous peak of 70.6% in 1990 (just before the market crashed). That means anyone purchasing a Toronto house in 2017 could expect to pay 72% of their household pre-tax income on homeownership costs including mortgage payments, utilities and property taxes.

Here’s the problem: Most economists state we should spend no more than three times our annual salary on a home. According to Statistics Canada, the median income for Toronto families is $78,280 (as of 2015). That means the most a family should pay for a home is  $234,840. According to the most recent data from the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB), the average price for a detached home in Toronto is $1,573,622. That’s a 29.8% jump in costs from this time last year. Look a bit further out and you could drop the average house price to $875,983—better, but still a far cry from that three times your salary ratio we were once taught to abide by.

What’s worse is that renters aren’t doing much better in this city. The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Toronto now sits at $1,850, with many downtown condos renting for well over $2,000 per month.

Cost of living is high!

Breaking up with you Toronto
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Flickr / Lucélia Ribeiro

It’s not just the cost of housing that’s driving the exodus out of this city. Other costs associated with raising a family are also high. According to a report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, “the cost of childcare has risen by 30%,” since 2008. The report goes on to say that “rent has increased by 13%; the cost of public transit has grown by 36%.”

The larger dilemma, however, is that Toronto’s wage growth has been stagnant for years. In order to compensate for the increased cost of living city residents take on more debt. “At end of the third quarter of 2016, every dollar of take-home pay was matched by $1.67 of debt,” according to Rob Carrick of The Globe and Mail. James Culic, a reporter for Niagara This Week, laments: “You’ve gotta be rich to be poor in Toronto, which is fine if you’re part of the city’s upper crust, but for the vast majority of residents it just means lots of fun things are sadly out of reach. A trip to an NHL game or a concert at the Air Canada Centre has climbed to astronomically high levels. The only affordable major venue left in the city is a Blue Jays game, but baseball is terrible and no one wants to sit through however many innings that boring excuse for a sport lasts for.”

If you’re a millennial, you really aren’t feeling any love

breaking up with Toronto. Dundas Square. Entertainment costs are high
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Wikimedia Commons / Walderbg

Millennials have racked up more education than any other generation, so it’s a slap in the face that Toronto’s young people have pitiable salaries. “It now takes the typical young Torontonian between the ages of 25 and 34 almost 4-½ months of full-time work to pay for a year’s rent in an average three-bedroom apartment,” according to Metro News’ May Warren.

But rent or mortgage payments are merely the beginning of Toronto’s battle for your paycheck. Toronto residents pay 20% more for entertainment than their counterparts in Vancouver. Is it any wonder then that so many of Toronto’s millennials are about to kick the ‘Centre of the Universe’ to the curb?

Toronto can be a lonely place

breaking up with you Toronto, Ontario
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Apparently, millennials aren’t the only cohort not entirely thrilled with the life. You may recall that Statistics Canada published a report a few years ago that measured “Life Satisfaction” in regions across Canada. Torontonians proved to be the second most unhappy population (Vancouver beat us, but only slightly) and Toronto’s Gen Xers and younger baby boomers—those in their 40s and 50s—reported the highest level of dissatisfaction.

As the researchers learned, happiness is largely dependent on social connections, the level of economic opportunity and the quality of amenities, services and infrastructure within your reach. As a result, the report researchers found that folk in Canada’s smaller communities were generally much happier. Neighbors tend to get to know one another and it’s typically easier to make those important social connections, get to the local club and be a part of your community.

“Unless you ask for what you need quickly you may find you get a chilly reception,” warns Meg, a Toronto native, at Kevin Nightingale, a Toronto resident commenting at agrees. “People walk by you in the street. If you attempt to strike up a conversation with a stranger, people will (politely) avoid eye contact.” James Culic adds: “Living in Toronto does something to people. It’s like it sucks all the Canadian out of the residents there and leaves them something closer to those rude Yanks.”

For many, the lack of social connections and the massive amount of effort it requires to create them, as well as the unaffordable housing situation and the ultra-expensive entertainment costs of this now-global city, are just a few reasons to “Dear John” dear ol’ Toronto.

Shannon O'Brien
Shannon O'Brien

A former real estate agent in the San Francisco Bay Area, Shannon eventually became a real estate journalist and offers her services to agents across North America. She is the author of five real estate books and blogs at

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