There’s been plenty of discussion recently surrounding Toronto’s hot housing market. First-time buyers are being priced out and young prospective home buyers are being pushed further and further away from the city’s desirable centre. With all this talk, it’s easy to get caught up and lose perspective, but lucky for you, I’m here to remind you to count those blessings (however meagre they may be).
Sure, the housing situation in cities like Vancouver and Toronto may be less than ideal, and yes, something should be done to improve the way things are going. However, there are far more dire housing situations in other top-tier cities, which, when compared to Toronto, really make everything here seem – dare I say -breezy?
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Taking A Global Rental Perspective
Take, for instance, Hong Kong. As those who’ve read my posts on Findependence Hub may know, I lived in Hong Kong teaching English. It is one of the most bustling, vibrant cities I’ve ever experienced, but I can only defend it so much once the subject of housing prices comes up. Year after year, Hong Kong tops all the lists of ‘most expensive housing,’ and having rented there for a year, I have to concede defeat on that point. For what you get in Hong Kong, there is much to be desired.
If you’re like most millennials and looking to break into the housing market for the first time – perhaps in a Toronto condo – you’ve most likely experienced the disillusionment that inevitably comes when you realize the prices you’re looking at paying, even after this summer’s price correction. In the city of Toronto, the average price per square foot, or PPSF, is around $649 with an average home cost of around $550,000. This number spikes to $800 PSF if you’re looking to put down roots in ‘downtown Toronto’ (anywhere south of Bloor, west of Yonge, east of Bathurst).
Related Read: 5 Ways to Get Ahead in the Toronto Rental Market
Now, let’s compare those prices to what you’d get in Hong Kong for the same amount of money. The average PPSF to purchase an apartment in Hong Kong’s city centre is $3,075 CAD. Keeping in mind average monthly salaries are within $100 CAD of each other, this difference is astounding. I knew the prices in Hong Kong were exorbitant, but I had no idea how crazy until doing the research for this article.
Comparing the Markets
To make things a bit more fun, I decided to indulge in one of my favourite pastimes: real estate shopping. I took the average Toronto home price and used Zoocasa’s listings page to see what I could find. I found a beautiful brand new one + bedroom, one-bathroom unit with a large balcony, and lots of natural light for $509,000. At between 600 and 700 square feet, this put me at $783 PSF. A bit under the average— so, score.
Next, I went to my favourite Hong Kong real estate listing website, spacious.hk, and looked around for a suitable candidate. For a similarly updated 567 square foot, centrally located two-bedroom, one-bath unit with a parking space (no balcony) in a 25-year-old building, I’m looking at paying more than double the price of the Toronto option at CAD $1.8M.
Toronto Space Less at a Premium
When I came back from Hong Kong I remember thinking just how much space we all have here. Canada is the second largest country by land mass in the world, and it’s interesting to see how we use that space compared to other places— in this instance, Hong Kong, where space is arguably their most valuable resource.
This trial has taught me that though we often complain about our housing being unaffordable, it’s all relative. Toronto is expensive relative to the province of Ontario and much of the rest of Canada but not prohibitively so.
Roughly one in three (35 per cent) of Torontonians spend at least 30 per cent of their income on housing, which is the cutoff for housing to be considered affordable, according to CIW.ca. But that also means two thirds of Torontonians are spending less than 30% of before-tax household income on housing. It could be worse, as any Hong Kong native could verify. Once you take a global perspective, you realize how lucky we really are to call the Great White North ‘home.’