Is Urban Living a Pipe Dream?

Is Urban Living a Pipe Dream?


Every generation seems to travel down the same path, motivated by the same desire. For many raised in suburban or rural areas, migration to a major city is an opportunity to spread their wings. Eventually, many boomerang back to the suburbs to raise their own families, or simply to retreat from the hustle of the city.

Has this dream become a fantasy that, for most, can’t be achieved? Living in a big city is expensive, certainly more than in previous years, even when accounting for inflation. What do young professionals need to set up camp in a major city?

There are many types of people who want to live in the city. When thinking of the traditional city resident, many are referring to young professionals. It’s common for recent post-secondary graduates to move to a large city due to the opportunities available, as well as the different housing options.


The 5 Most Expensive Cities

Per finance blog, Insider Monkey, the most expensive cities to live in as of 2014 are:


  1. Vancouver
  2. San Francisco
  3. San Diego
  4. Toronto
  5. Los Angeles


This list doesn’t contain many surprises. Toronto is Canada’s pre-eminent job creator and financial centre, drawing tens of thousands of new residents every year. Los Angeles is an entertainment and production epicentre, and, along with its bay area cousin, San Diego, draws many seeking both sunshine and opportunity. Lastly, San Francisco is home to a thriving tech industry, which has driven local housing prices through the roof.

It’s no coincidence that these cities on both coasts are becoming incredibly expensive. For many, living in these pricey places requires two jobs, incurring significant debt, or outside financial help.


The Cost of Life in Toronto

Using Toronto as an example, monthly expenses like housing, food and transportation can be prohibitively expensive. Using data from Expatistan, a website that compares the cost of living in different cities, here are some of the rough costs of life in Toronto:

Expense Monthly Cost
Rent for 900 sq. ft. furnished home in sought-after area $2,272
Internet $55
Utilities $120
Public Transportation $143


As you can see, living in a nice area of downtown Toronto can cost roughly $2,590/month before food, clothing and entertainment.

Based on this data, it’s estimated that life in a city like Montreal is 17% cheaper than Toronto. But for many who can’t afford living in Toronto, they’re forced to live in (and commute from) far-flung suburbs like Etobicoke or Mississauga, or even neighbouring cities like Hamilton.


Making Urban Life Possible for a New Generation

The challenges that come with affording city living can be solved through government intervention. Rent control, tax rebates or subsidies could lower the annual cost of urban living and make it more feasible for young professionals.

If you dream of living in a major city, make sure you crunch the numbers and live within your means. This way you can afford a place to live without missing out on the fun of big-city life.



Rob Shapiro | The Edge Blog


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