canada housing crisis

Hilarious new Toronto billboard is actually dead serious

When someone under 40 buys their own condo in Toronto (or, perish the thought, an actual house,) it's common for their social contacts to assume they "had help from their parents."

The fact of the matter is that a lot of young people do accept money for downpayments from the Bank of Mom and Dad, especially the millennial children of baby boomers who are widely blamed for ruining our housing market in the first place.

There's no shame in it, as far as I'm concerned. For most of us paying exorbitant rent prices just to live in the city, it's the only option. But not everyone has parents who can or will provide such a generous endowment.

Those people, who I would venture make up the majority of this demographic, are screwed. Heck, even people with money from their parents are screwed in a city where the average detached home price is $1.75 million (and rising.)

We know for a fact that Toronto is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis. We've been here for some time. We also know that it's nearly impossible for first-time buyers to secure homes big enough to actually work from and raise families in (unless they can travel back in time.)

We know that the problem is getting worse, and that it's forcing talented young people to leave the city in droves for less expensive digs. We also know that the problem is spreading beyond urban centres like Toronto and Vancouver.

Analysts often pontificate on the reasons behind these trends (most recently, one economist suggested that Canadian house prices are so high because Canada is running out of land...).

Some innovative advocates have taken it upon themselves to let everyone know that solutions to this problem do exist, and that we can help bring them to fruition by banding together.

"The dream of owning a home is slipping out of reach for an entire
generation of Canadians. We can save it. But we must act now," reads, the homepage of a new, youth-focused affordable housing campaign that started as a Reddit sub but has since transformed into a multi-platform community of thousands.

"There is nothing inevitable about runaway home prices. While there's no simple fix, there are dozens of policies and proposals that create a fairer market. Politicians have shrugged off the crisis so far. It's time they start to listening to buyers and renters — and do something."

Among the measures the group would like to see from policymakers are:

  • Double the minimum down payment for investment properties
  • Ensure data on homes, sales, listings and bids are free and public
  • Make the bidding process transparent
  • Increase capital gains taxes for investors and speculators
  • Introduce new taxes on vacancies and short-term rentals

You can read more about each of these points here, but the group says its mission is simple: "Drawing attention to the housing crisis and pushing for sustainable price appreciation, transparency in the housing market, and ample supply, all so Canadians can afford a decent home to live in."

They've already succeeded at drawing attention, thanks, in part, to two massive, crowd-funded, atypically clever billboards in Toronto and Ottawa.
canada housing crisis

You can see the Toronto billboard looking southwest from the corner of Spadina and Street. Photo by Lauren O'Neil.

As you can see, the Toronto billboard is a tongue-in-cheek piece of advice for someone trying to buy a house in Canada's largest city. It's accurate. Painfully so.

The Ottawa billboard, which would also resonate with Toronto residents, reads: "Houses aren't for you. They're for the rich. You can go rent."

Best of all might be the honesty with which these individuals are conducting their advocacy: "We're not going to push for sustainable housing like any old boring nonprofit. We're doing it in the Reddit way. Noisily. Aggressively. And by disturbing the comfortable."

"We can't create ads promoting our exact message of 'sustainable price appreciation.' Because that is boring and no one will notice or care. So instead, we worked together to devise some material that should grab people's attention," reads their GoFundMe campaign which, as of Thursday evening, had hit its target goal of $10,000.

"The intention is to get people to notice what's going on, get them to realize there's a movement afoot to fix these problems, get them to have an emotional reaction," the page continues.

"The goal is to pull potential allies off the sidelines and get them engaged. And, inspired by r/wallstreetbets, the goal is to rattle the status quo and show the almighty power of angry internet people."

Lead photo by

Lauren O'Neil

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