Roomies Forever: Shared housing is more common these days, especially among young adults

Shortly after landing a job as a furniture salesman earlier this year, Jack Hall moved out of his parents’ house, to which the 27-year-old had returned at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to a house shared in Burlington, Ontario, with two other young men.

But having given up the chance to buy property in the Toronto area and struggling to save money even with his frugal lifestyle, Hall is now looking to leave the country altogether.

“In fact, I have been talking to my father, who has contacts in Australia, New Zealand and Ireland, and I am thinking of leaving the country directly because it has become unworkable for people my age,” he said. “It’s not unfeasible, like we could live here, but it’s not worth living here.”

Hall is part of a growing trend of people living in shared accommodation, with a 54% increase in the number of households made up of roommates (defined as two or more people living together who are not partners, children, parents, or grandparents to each other). from 2001 to 2021, depending census data released by Statistics Canada last month.

The portion of all Canadians living in such arrangements is still small: the more than 660,000 such households represent just four percent of the national total. But when it comes to the living situation of 20-34 year olds, shared hosting accounts for 15 percent of the total, up from 11 percent in 2011.

Young adults are living with roommates for financial support due to a lack of affordable alternative housing options, whether by choice, for companionship and emotional support or for other reasons, the statistics agency said.

It’s certainly a financial decision for Hall, who says he has little left at the end of each month and falls back into debt when unexpected expenses arise.

“The cost of gas, car insurance, groceries, rent, utilities, internet, cell phone bill, renters insurance, it spreads my paycheck quite a bit,” he said. “But if I’m careful and just keep my expenses in check, I hope I can keep my head above water, but, you know, it’s been going back and forth above and below water for two years.”

The jump in prices for food, fuel, transportation and a variety of other basic and discretionary goods this year has put further pressure on Hall’s budget and forced him to cut consumption.

That means not accepting all invitations to go out, he said, since “the cost of alcohol is a completely unnecessary expense,” barely eating meat and buying and eating less food overall.

The number of roommate households has grown faster than any other living arrangement in Canada over the past decade, census data shows, and with homeownership in the Toronto area a distant dream, some young people are looking abroad.

“With groceries, I started eating less, I make the meals I need to be healthy but I don’t buy a ton of stuff,” she said, adding that often that means just eggs, bread and fruit.

Hall says she knows there are plenty of people facing more difficult circumstances than her own, but she’s frustrated that politicians talk a lot about addressing affordability issues without taking action to fix them.

“I’m talking to a generation of people who don’t care.”

Morgan Sharp / Local Journalism Initiative / National Observer Canada

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