Toronto is the financial capital of Canada, and like all financial centers, quite expensive to live in. On top of all the banking, sales & trading, and management consulting offices, there are 3 major universities with campuses downtown – UofT St George (Rotman), York (Schulich), and Ryerson. With such high demand for rental properties, units are both expensive and in high demand, especially on dates like September 1st. If you are moving to the city for work or school, finding a place to live can be intimidating. This guide is here to explain the rental market in downtown Toronto, and how to find places within your budget.
Neighborhoods in Downtown Toronto
Depending on what you are in Toronto for, and the conditions you are used to, there are several neighborhoods that you can live in.
University of Toronto (Rotman MBA or Undergrad)
- UofT Dorms
- Bay Street Corridor – Condos and Apartments, East of UofT
- Yorkville – Condos and Apartments, North of UofT
- The Annex – Houses and Apartments, close to Kensington Market, West of UofT
- Baldwin Village – Houses, close to Chinatown, South of UofT
As an MBA or undergrad student, you would want to live as close to the school as possible. Dorms are a good choice, but you usually have 3+ roommates. If you prefer to live alone, or have at most 1 roommate, there are 4 neighborhoods close to UofT. Condos are newer, nicer, and comes with amenities like security/gym, but more expensive. Apartments are older, sketchier, but cheaper. Houses are usually the cheapest, but you would have multiple roommates.
Banking, Consulting, Accounting, or other Corporate Careers
- Financial District – Condos
- Entertainment District – Condos
Most corporate and finance jobs are in the financial district. When looking for a place, you want to make sure it is connected to PATH. Most of these units are in condos, so not much choice in type of unit.
Rental Rates in Downtown Toronto
To begin, you have to set realistic expectations on what you can afford, and that means understanding both your finances and the typical rates. Everyone wants to live in a penthouse suite right next to their work/school, but if you are going to OCAD for graphic design perhaps that is not the most financially prudent decision. The typical rates for new condos are as follows:
- Bachelor’s/Studio Suite – $1,800 – $2,000
- 1 Bedroom and 1 Den – $2,300 – $2,500
- 2 Bedrooms – $2,800 – $3,500
These rates vary with the number of washrooms, location of the building (connected to PATH?) and whether or not the unit comes with a parking spot (a parking spot can be rented out for $200/month). If those numbers are higher than your budget, you have a couple of different strategies.
How to Find Cheaper Rental Units
Having roommates is the most common strategy to reduce rent. The most prevalent arrangements are 2 people in 1 Bedroom and 1 Den (with the den remodelled to be a second bedroom), or 2 people in 2 Bedrooms. There are other arrangements such as 3 people in a 2 Bedroom 1 Den or 7 people in a house, but we do not recommend these unless you know the roommates personally.
There are 3 ways to rent with roommates – rent the unit as a primary tenant and rent out the room after, rent the room from the primary tenant, or rent the unit together with your roommate. As the primary tenant, you have the right to select your roommate, but the risk of the roommate leaving prior to the end of contract or not finding a roommate before the contract starts. In both cases, you would be on the hook for the rent until you can find a new roommate. If you are renting from the primary tenant, you do not bear those risks, but you also cannot choose your roommate. Finding a roommate first and then co-signing the lease may be the best of both worlds, but finding a roommate that is looking for the same thing as you can be difficult.
Rent Older Apartments
If for some reason having roommates is unacceptable, you can get away with lower rents in an older apartment. The typical rates for units in older apartments are as follows:
- Bachelor’s/Studio Suite – $1,100 – $1,500
- 1 Bedroom and 1 Den – $1,700 – $2,100
- 2 Bedrooms – $2,000 – $2,500
However, older apartments do come with its own problems, namely rodent infestations (cockroaches and bed bugs are not uncommon), poor management (do not respond) and poor amenities. You also end up living with a different, perhaps more unsavoury demographic, which you may not be used to interacting with. To rent older apartments, you usually have to go to the building in person. You can try reaching management via email or phone, but no response is common.
Live Farther Away
If you cannot deal with roommates or possibly sketchy apartments, you can live farther away. We suggest that you live close to the TTC (Subway) Stations, as that would minimize time spent in the cold Toronto winter. Subway Line 1 runs in a U shape North-South-North from Vaughan to Finch, and Line 2 runs East-West from Kipling (Etobicoke) to Kennedy (Scarborough). From Kennedy, you can transfer to Line 3 which runs deeper into Scarborough. Anywhere along those lines is at most an hour away from downtown. However, TTC breaks down rather frequently, therefore you should build a 15 to 30 minute buffer into your travel times. You will be sacrificing significant time and convenience for a few thousand dollars a year, make sure that is worth it to you. Being late to meetings and interviews can cost significantly more than the few thousand dollars (per year) you are saving.
We know that renting in downtown Toronto is not cheap, but we think it is worth the cost. If you are strapped for cash, we would recommend finding a roommate or finding an apartment, but not living further away. It is better to focus on making money, rather than saving money.
Resources for Renting
- Bunz Home Zone (Best)
- University of Toronto (U of T) – Off campus housing St George
- Toronto Rent a Room
- Housing and sublets in Toronto