The par­ent trap or the pay-rent trap? Cen­sus data shows a mil­len­nial di­vide

Liv­ing at home while sav­ing for down pay­ment in­creas­ingly a mark of priv­i­lege, ex­perts say


Twenty-six-year-old Ian Sin­clair has found the per­fect base­ment apart­ment in the west end.

It’s close to tran­sit, with its own en­trance. He even gets along well with his land­lords, who hap­pen to be his par­ents.

“Es­sen­tially I’m their base­ment ten­ant but not pay­ing rent,” says Sin­clair, who works full-time in the pub­lic sec­tor. He moved back into the house he grew up in, near Run­nymede sta­tion, after grad­u­at­ing from univer­sity in 2017.

“I def­i­nitely feel for­tu­nate and priv­i­leged,” he says of his sit­u­a­tion. “I have many friends from school whose par­ents aren’t from the city so they didn’t have a choice.”

As Toronto’s hous­ing cri­sis con­tin­ues, ex­perts are see­ing a new di­vide take hold among the younger gen­er­a­tion, be­tween those who can live with their par­ents — sav­ing money for a down pay­ment — and those who can’t.

Across the city, al­most 35 per cent of Sin­clair’s peers aged 20 to 34 live at home, ac­cord­ing to 2016 cen­sus data. But those rates are higher in wealth­ier neigh­bour­hoods, such as Run­nymede—Bloor West Vil­lage (al­most 40 per cent). Other af­flu­ent ar­eas with larger sin­gle-fam­ily homes also have higher rates of mil­len­ni­als liv­ing at home, such as Cen­ten­nial Scar­bor­ough (69 per cent) and Kingsway South in Eto­bi­coke (61 per cent).

In Bri­dle Path—Sun­ny­brook—York Mills, one of the city’s wealth­i­est ar­eas, a whop­ping 75 per cent of young adults are stick­ing with mom and dad.

“I see liv­ing with par­ents as a form of priv­i­lege,” says Univer­sity of Water­loo as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor Nancy Worth, who stud­ied the is­sue in a 2017 re­port called “GenY at Home.”

Worth said liv­ing at home is also in­creas­ingly seen as a smart fi­nan­cial move that sets up younger peo­ple for suc­cess, rather than the old stereo­type of the “lazy mil­len­nial” trapped in their par­ents’ base­ment, de­lay­ing adult­hood.

“It’s sort of in­tro­duc­ing a kind of in­equal­ity within a gen­er­a­tion, rather than just across a gen­er­a­tion.”

The trend is not only about money, Worth says, as many baby boomer par­ents and mil­len­nial kids have a closer re­la­tion­ship than pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions. Pre­car­i­ous work also pushes peo­ple back home, as it’s hard to lock into a 30-year mort­gage or even a year­long lease on a six­month work con­tract.

But with­out af­ford­able hous­ing op­tions for younger peo­ple, it’s the fam­ily who steps up, and that im­pacts who is able to then save and buy fu­ture real es­tate, she says.

“If you can’t give your kids $50,000 but you can give them their room back, es­pe­cially in your large sin­gle-fam­ily home, you’re es­sen­tially giv­ing them a sav­ings of rent, which can be quite sig­nif­i­cant in a place like Toronto.”

In the Bri­dle Path, one of Toronto’s toni­est ad­dresses, adult chil­dren liv­ing with their par­ents makes sense in terms of “pure square footage,” says Barry Co­hen, owner of ReMax Barry Co­hen Homes Inc., who sells homes in the area.

“It’s quite com­mon through the Bri­dle Path be­cause the homes are so large and ex­trav­a­gant,” he said, not­ing there are a few multi-gen­er­a­tional homes in the neigh­bour­hood, with fea­tures such as sep­a­rate en­trances de­signed for grandma and grandpa as well as mom and dad and adult kids.

“Why not live in the lap of lux­ury?”

The low­est rates of young adults liv­ing at home are in neigh­bour­hoods along the water­front and in the Fi­nan­cial Dis­trict, such as Ni­a­gara (4 per cent), and the Bay St. cor­ri­dor (7 per cent), where smaller, newer condo units make multi­gen­er­a­tional liv­ing crowded.

“You’re in 450, 500 square feet, you don’t have room for par­ents, you don’t have room for a cat,” says Nora Spinks, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer at the Vanier In­sti­tute of the Fam­ily.

In a city where the av­er­age de­tached home costs about $1.3 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the Toronto Real Es­tate Board, and the av­er­age rent for a one-bed­room apart­ment is now more than $2,000, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures from mar­ket re­search firm Ur­ba­na­tion, cost is the big­gest fac­tor for many.

It cer­tainly was for Sin­clair, who’s sav­ing the “tens of thou­sands of dol­lars a year on rent, at least” for a fu­ture down pay­ment by liv­ing with his par­ents in the west end.

But there are other rea­sons for liv­ing with mom and dad, such as tak­ing care of a sick par­ent, or com­ing from a cul­ture where it’s more ac­cepted, says Spinks.

Amani Tarud, 24, who grew up in Chile and has Mid­dle East­ern her­itage, says it’s nor­mal and even en­cour­aged for young, sin­gle peo­ple to live with their par­ents there.

“It’s a very North Amer­i­can ideal that you have to leave once you turn 18,” she says.

Tarud lives in a two-bed­room apart­ment near Yonge and Eglin­ton with her mom, twin teenage sis­ters and the fam­ily dog. She grad­u­ated from the Univer­sity of Toronto last June but is stick­ing around as long as she can to save a nest egg for rent and work on pay­ing off her stu­dent loan — even though it means shar­ing a bed­room with her mother.

“Does it get in the way of so­cial and ro­man­tic life a lit­tle bit? Yeah sure, but it’s not ter­ri­ble by any means at all.”

Tarud, who is work­ing in child and respite care, says a place of her own would be far out of reach fi­nan­cially. And there are perks, such as be­ing able to take care of each other when they get sick.

“If I have to live with a room­mate it might as well be here, be­cause at least it’s some­one that I get along with,” she says.

Ur­ban plan­ner Ch­eryll Case lived with her par­ents in the Eto­bi­coke neigh­bour­hood of Kingsview Vil­lage—The West­way (where 49 per cent of sin­gle adults aged 20 to 34 do the same) for a year after grad­u­at­ing from Ry­er­son Univer­sity.

She, too, feels lucky she was able to save up “a good cush­ion” for rent be­fore mov­ing into a town­house with her boyfriend and a room­mate.

But, she notes, there are many neigh­bour­hoods where, if you want to re­main in the area, the only real choice is to stay in the house you grew up in, be­cause of a lack of af­ford­able hous­ing. Build­ing more “miss­ing mid­dle” units across the city — lowrise apart­ments and town­homes that are a more af­ford­able al­ter­na­tive to the two ex­tremes of high­rises and sin­gle de­tached homes — would help with sup­ply prob­lems, she says.

“It’s a great priv­i­lege to live with your par­ents and you save money, but it’s a great priv­i­lege to be able to live on your own if you so choose,” she says.

Ian Sin­clair, 26, said he saves “tens of thou­sands of dol­lars a year on rent” liv­ing with his par­ents in the west end.


“I def­i­nitely feel for­tu­nate and priv­i­leged,” says Ian Sin­clair, who is among the nearly 35 per cent of young adults (age 20 to 34) across Toronto who live with their par­ents.

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