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Code Red: The 20-year wait to afford housing in Toronto

It will take the typical young person almost two decades to afford a down payment on an average GTA home.

For 24-year-old Fatin Chowdhury, the idea of being able to one day afford a dream home is starting to feel like a fantasy.

Eduardo Lima / Metro Order this photo

For 24-year-old Fatin Chowdhury, the idea of being able to one day afford a dream home is starting to feel like a fantasy.

Almost 20 years.

That’s how long it will take the typical young person working full time to save for a 20 per cent down payment on an average GTA home, according to new numbers provided exclusively to Metro.

It’s 13 years longer than it took people back in 1976, adjusting for inflation and assuming a person can save about 15 per cent of their income.

For Fatin Chowdhury, the idea of being able to one day afford a dream home is starting to feel like a fantasy.

“I can’t even contemplate the idea of home ownership,” said the 24-year-old. “It’s definitely frustrating.”

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Chowdhury lives with his parents in Mississauga and spends about an hour and 40 minutes commuting to Toronto every day for work.

He’s been searching for a shared apartment in the city but hasn’t found much in his budget of $800 a month. And, as things are now, by the time he pays for transit and other expenses there’s not much left to put away for any kind of down payment.

“It’s not that I don’t want to have a home one day,” Chowdhury said, "It’s just that I don’t think I can really have that, given where I am right now and what the prices are."

That reality is a huge shift from where people his age sat a few generations ago, said Paul Kershaw, a University of British Columbia professor and founder of Generation Squeeze.

Kershaw’s data — crunched from housing and income figures collected by the Canadian Real Estate Association and Statistics Canada — shows people who bought homes in the mid-1980s could save for a starter home in just a few years.

People who bought homes back then are sitting on goldmines, while young people starting careers now face the opposite.   

“Hard work pays off so much less than it used to,” Kershaw said.

Many young adults are in a “vicious cycle” of high student debt, precarious work and rising childcare costs while trying to save for a home, he added.

“It’s like an escalator that’s going down so quickly, and the younger demographic is trying to adapt,” Kershaw said.

Millennials may try to get more degrees, work more hours or take on more debt, but it doesn’t help.

“Even all those adaptations don’t let them get up faster than the actual escalator is going down,” he said.

Highrises in downtown Toronto.

Eduardo Lima/Metro

Highrises in downtown Toronto.

Because houses are harder to find, renting has become more important. But the price of renting in the GTA has also risen with the hot housing market and supply hasn’t kept up with demand.

That means home affordability, as Kershaw calls it, has become “a problem that afflicts pretty much everybody who’s in their 20s, 30s and early 40s.”

He hopes the number of people impacted presents an opportunity to change policies and work towards solutions that can also help address long-standing problems like homelessness and a lack of affordable housing for the working poor.

Amara Possian, who is working with Chowdhury to launch a chapter of Code Red in Toronto, said she sees an overall shift in her generation away from ownership and towards “access.”

But that’s one thing when it comes to ridesharing and another when it comes to a roof over your head.

“It’s really unsettling,” said the 27-year-old.

“That dream that many people grew up with that if they just worked hard they’d be able to afford a house, it’s seems so unrealistic that it’s ridiculous to even think about it.”

Next Monday: Rental woes. Torontonians are spending more and more of their income on rent. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.

If you have a story to share, email may.warren@metronews.ca. and tweet using the hashtag #CodeRed.

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