affordable housing

Not a single major city in Canada is affordable for people under the age of 30

It's no secret that living in Toronto has become increasingly unaffordable over the past several years, especially for young people who are just trying to get on their feet, but a new index suggests Toronto is far from the only Canadian city that's out of reach for young adults.

In fact, findings from the Youthful Cities Real Affordability Index, presented by RBC Future Launch, indicate that not one city — big or small — is actually affordable for people under 30.

"Young people are either considered change makers who are the only hope for solving the climate crisis, or they are the tik-tok obsessed generation who overspends on oat milk lattes and avocado toast," reads the index. 

"With 27 cities, 54 measures, and 2414 data points examined in the Real Affordability Index, we can conclude that this generation is currently still working to afford the toast, let alone the avocado."

According to the index, Canadians between the ages of 15 and 29 run an average deficit of $750 a month living in cities. In Toronto, that deficit climbs to $1,121.14.

To break even, young people would need to spend no money on entertainment, transportation or dining out — which is just as unreasonable as it is unlikely.

Canadian cities in the east are the least affordable overall, primarily due to the east coast salary discount, while cities in Alberta and Quebec offer more opportunities for young people to save money. 

Lethbridge, AB is the most affordable city, according to the index, with a monthly deficit of $32.92. But its 20 per cent gender gap related to affordability  is one of the highest in the country. 

Still, renting a one-bedroom bedroom apartment in Lethbridge is well below $1,000 a month, compared to Toronto where average rents for the same kind of unit are nearly $2,000 a month.

"Affordability shouldn't only be about the basic necessities for survival," says Claire Patterson of Youthful Cities in a statement.

"Affordability should also include the ability to pay for those things that contribute to the vibrancy of a person's life when they are able to move forward and meet those key milestones we view as signs of success. In today's Canadian cities opportunities to thrive simply aren't equally accessible to all young people."

The main barriers to affordability, according to the index, include salaries and wages, options for full-time employment, a lack of gender pay equity and a lack of skill development.

"Young peoples' inability to afford to live in urban areas can have many compounding negative effects including increased mental health concerns as they face fears of missing out on life ahead and attaining their goals and ambitions," says Mark Beckles, vice-president of social innovation and impact at RBC, in a statement.

With inflation at 6.7 per cent, the index outline specific targets to get closer to affordability for youth in the next three years. This includes achieving full-time jobs for 66 per cent of 15-24 year-olds (currently 49 per cent vs. 86 per cent for people over 25) and boosting minimum wage by $5 in every province and territory.

It also suggests reducing the costs of education by 15 per cent, public transit by 25 per cent and rental housing by 20 per cent.

"Young people should have equitable access to educational opportunities and upskilling programs, a higher minimum wage, and affordable options for housing, but they don't," reads the index. "Affordability for young people should also take into account more than the bare minimum necessary to survive but what it would take to thrive."

Lead photo by

Jack Landau

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