There is a housing challenge in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area); I did a Twitter thread about it. Painfully so, because Ontario has the highest population of people in Canada. Also, because this appears to be the 1st city of choice for new immigrants. Toronto is also prided to be the most diverse city in all Canada. While this is amazing in terms of helping you settle in faster, it is horrible in finding a decent place for you to stay at a fair price. Take me for instance, I’m paying 650 Canadian dollars a month for ONE room. Thankfully, it is furnished with a bed and a reading table but I have to share the kitchen and living room with other occupants of the house.
When I was house hunting the 1st time, my options were between renting a furnished room in the upper floor of a house, or a basement. Most basements in my mind, appear cold and dreary. If you think about any horror movies you’ve watched or places where serial killers hide their prey *insert evil laughter* it almost always happens in a basement. And then if you live in a tight basement, it almost seems like you are searching for the direction of the light. As I reflected on the challenges with new immigrants finding a place to stay within the GTA, it got me thinking to share some factors to keep in mind when house sharing:
1. Rules from the landlord– My landlord is a Germaphobe Jamaican living in Brampton. A sweet and charming guy, but with an extreme hate for dirt nonetheless. He likes his kitchen and its utensils a certain way. He keeps his fridge sparkling. He likes his bathroom a certain way, with how it is washed and wiped down. Mehn, so many rules since I moved in that I’m thankful I can be a patient person, otherwise I don’t know how I would have managed.
2. Other house occupants and their noise– So get this- My landlord lives in this 4 bedroom apartment with his girlfriend and her 2 sons. The sons who are 25 and 15 are the noisiest lot I’ve come across. They will watch & play video games from morning to night in their rooms but that isn’t even the issue. They get so engrossed in it, that they are shouting, screaming, and cursing or playing loud music, even late into the night.
3. Thin walls a la Canadian homes– This point is directly connected to the one above. When you share a room in a house, just say goodbye to having private telephone conversations. Everyone can hear what everyone else is saying. One time when my landlord annoyed me, I had to wait to go outside before I could talk on the phone about it. In fact, I can hear the conversations of the Indian family that lives downstairs in the basement of the house.
4. Sharing of common areas of the house– the kitchen, bathroom, living room & laundry room. The last time I shared a toilet with anyone that wasn’t family was when I lived in Moremi hostel at the University of Lagos. I hate that I have to share one now but wetin man go do? Na money kill am. This month, the landlord & I are in discussions to set up a cleaning roster for the toilet so my Chinese flatmate- who rents the other room upstairs will be part of the cleaning schedule. Since I moved here 3 months ago, I haven’t seen that guy lift a broom, talk less of a mop.
5. Paying rent on a month to month basis– You don’t realize how quickly 30 days go by until you have to pay monthly rent. Paying month to month can be quite overwhelming, unless you have the cash sitting pretty somewhere, just waiting for you to transfer it. Also, rent usually is by direct debit or bank cheques, so you cannot use it to build credit history on your credit card.
6. Mind your business– No unnecessary familiarity or Nigerian poke nosing…looool. Once you enter your room, it is a mind your business affair. No one asks you where you are going or where you are coming from. If you need help or directions someplace, you have to ask. You can live in the same house with someone for many month and be unable to recognize them when you guys are out and about.
On the bright side, however, if you rent a furnished room like I am currently doing, you don’t need to buy any furniture. Basic household furniture is provided, and all you need to do is move in with your clothes. The rent also typically is inclusive of other utilities, unless otherwise stated. Utilities like power, water, heating, AC, WiFi and refuse disposal is taken care of. If you are lucky, there might even be an additional parking spot that comes free of charge.
In closing, I never would have imagined myself living in a shared house, with 10 other people (including the Indian family in the basement downstairs), but except for a little child that cries every now and again from the basement, living here has been peaceful than I thought. Also, I’m adding to my lifestyle repertoire of diversity. All at once, on the go here in Toronto, I am experiencing the Indian, Caribbean, and Chinese cultures 🙂
Post script 23rd August 2018– My dear Landlord came home to see me sitting on his couch, and watching my favorite series in the whole wide world on his TV. He proceeded to have a very unnecessary conversation with me about my routine changing (essentially saying he wasn’t happy about me sitting in his living room). He also mentioned that he only rented me a room, not his entire house. I proceeded to remind him about three other commitments we had agreed he would get done, but hadn’t followed through on- including a cleaning roster for the bathroom, and receipts for my rent. Midway into the conversation, my guy says he wants to end the conversation. I think he expected me to listen to him talk, and not give my opinions. Sigh. Anyway, I’m moving out end of this month, so that is that.