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This woman pays 100% of her income on rent

Living with your parents. Living with your ex. Giving up basic needs like food and clothing.

These are just some of the sacrifices Canadians say they’ve been making to pay rent amid the surging prices and decreased availability marking Canada’s rental housing crisis. Demand for rentals is outpacing supply across the country. A recent CBC News analysis of more than 1,000 neighbourhoods across Canada’s largest cities found that less than one per cent of rentals are both vacant and affordable for the majority of Canadian renters.

Meanwhile, over half of Canadian renters are spending more than the recommended 30 per cent of their income on rent, according to a recent survey. 

“I think it’s sickening,” Karen Charmbury, a single mom living in Kingston, Ont., told CBC News.

Charmbury, 47, has to make sacrifices because 100 per cent of her income goes to her rent.

She had to sell her house after her divorce and now pays $2,679 per month for a three-bedroom townhouse in the same neighbourhood. She didn’t want her children, a teen boy and teen girl, to have to switch schools or share a bedroom.

A woman smiles
Karen Charmbury, 47, of Kingston, Ont., says 100 per cent of her income goes to her rent, a situation she says is ‘sickening.’ (Karen Charmbury)

So, she’s been cashing in her investments. Child support helps with the bills, her mother helps her with groceries and her friends give her their old clothes. She says she barely sleeps from the stress.

Charmbury, who works full time in admin, is also looking for a night job because one income is unsustainable.

“It’s very scary,” Charmbury said of her financial situation. “But you’d do anything for your kids.”

WATCH | The challenges of renting as a single mom: 

Some single mothers are finding their children are used against them as they compete for apartments in a tight rental market. One lawyer says she sees this often in her work even though it’s illegal, but it’s also hard to prove. Nicola Seguin reports.

In Abbotsford, B.C., Nathaniel Pelkman, 37, says he and his ex-wife lived together for nearly two years after their divorce because they couldn’t afford to live separately. Even then, they were evicted last year so their landlord could move back in.

“While both my ex-wife and I managed to land on our feet, and in separate residences this time, it was not easy to deal with the lack of stability,” Pelkman told CBC News.

 “The future certainly looks bleak for renters, even for those whose lives and careers can seem relatively stable.”

‘I don’t know what to do’

To calculate the extent of Canada’s rental crisis, CBC News combined 2021 census data with the most recent findings from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s rental market survey, conducted in October 2023.

CBC calculated affordability based on rental costs and utilities staying below 30 per cent of household gross income, the generally agreed-upon “rule,” using a $64,108 median income for families who rent. That works out to spending about $1,600 per month on rent and utilities.


Are you:

  • An international student who is concerned about housing?
  • A senior looking to get back into the rental market?
  • Someone who locked in to a great deal on rent years ago, and is now reluctant to move?
  • Living with a roommate much older or younger than you?
  • Living with an ex or staying in a relationship because of the rental market?

If this is you, or you are in a different unique living situation because of the rental crisis, we want to hear from you. Send an email to ask@cbc.ca.


For singles, it’s worse, where the median individual income is $45,069, which means what’s considered affordable works out to about $1,125 per month on rent and utilities.

Stephen Fasugba, who lives in Toronto, says he is paying $2,450 after his old landlord sold his previous condo and he had to find something else quickly. Now, as his new landlord keeps raising the rent, Fasugba, 67, a taxi driver, earns far less than his expenses.

“I can’t even make half of it at the end of the month,” Fasugba told CBC News. “I only have a deficit.”

To try to cut costs, he says he eats just one meal a day. He quit the gym, reluctantly, because he has a pacemaker and tries to stay active. Still, he’s two months behind on rent and says he’s out of options.

“I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do,” he repeated tearfully to CBC News. “I’m helpless.”

A man  in  a polo  shirt
Stephen Fasugba, 67, lives in Toronto. He says he eats just one meal a day to try to pay his rent, but still comes up short each month. (Stephen Fasugba)

Most Canadians spend more than recommended on rent: survey

“I think a lot of people are feeling pretty disenfranchised because there’s a lot of people who are paying a lot more in rent than that guideline of 30 per cent of income suggests. And it’s depressing,” Preet Banerjee, a Canadian personal finance expert and author, recently told CBC’s The Current.

LISTEN | Preet Banerjee on The Current: 

The Current19:35Are you paying too much in rent? Find out here

Banerjee says that realistically, most renters are actually paying more like 63 per cent of their gross income on rent, especially in big cities like Toronto and Vancouver. Many would argue the 30 per cent number, which comes from a U.S. guideline that was last updated in 1981,  is “in no way realistic of what the average household would expect, and certainly not realistic for today’s day and age,” Banerjee said.

“So, I would say in today’s day and age, if you want to have the ability to live your life as well, you want to keep it under 50 per cent. But even that’s tough,” he said.

A new report from Royal LePage showed that the majority of Canadian renters in their survey do in fact use more than 30 per cent of their net income for rent. More than half, 56 per cent, of the 1,506 Canadian renters they surveyed said more than 30 per cent of their net income was used to pay rent.

Of that, 16 per cent of Canadian renters said more than half their income went went to rent.

The proportion of those whose rent cost 50 per cent or more of their net income was highest in B.C. (25 per cent) and Atlantic Canada (24 per cent). In Ontario, 18 per cent of the renters polled said their rent costs were more than half of their income. It was 17 per cent in Alberta.

To get their numbers, Royal LePage surveyed 1,506 Canadian renters online between June 7 and June 10. A probability sample of 1,506 respondents would have a margin of error of plus or minus three per cent, 19 times out of 20.

‘Making lemonade out of lemons’

Kaleigh MacKay, 39, says she’s given up entirely on paying rent in Vancouver, where she currently lives with her mother. She works 32 hours per week as a client-service representative, and says a one-bedroom apartment would cost 100 per cent of her income.

She’s hoping to transition to full-time, but says even then she’s looking at spending upwards of 70 per cent of her income on rent. 

“I don’t want much. Just a simple place where I can live on my own,” MacKay told CBC News.

A woman with her hair in braids  looks  at  the camera
Kaleigh MacKay, 39, lives in Vancouver, but is planning to move to Europe so she can afford her own place to live. (Kaleigh MacKay)

So she’s decided it would be less expensive to reinstate her Lithuanian citizenship and passport and move to Europe, where she can afford studio apartments, even with the exchange rate to Euros.

“I feel like I have no future here,” MacKay said.

On the other side of the country, Alex MacDonald is also living with her mother. 

MacDonald, 32, of Halifax, is a full-time admin in health care, which she describes as “a good government job with benefits and a pension.” Her mother is a high-ranking civil servant.

But neither of them can afford to live alone, not when the average rent in Halifax is $2,210 per month, according to rentals.ca.

The prices are “incredibly shocking,” MacDonald said. 

When her parents separated, MacDonald’s mother had to take out a second mortgage and would have needed to rent out a room to to help with the cost. Instead, MacDonald has lived with her for the past five years.

“It works out well but it was definitely borne out of economic necessity, and why it’s gone on so long,” she said.

“I’m making lemonade out of the lemons.”

Low rise apartment buildings in Toronto’s Beaches neighbourhood are pictured on May 22, 2024.
Low rise buildings in Toronto’s Beaches neighbourhood are pictured. Most renters are actually paying approximately 63 per cent of their gross income on rent, especially in big cities like Toronto and Vancouver, according to a Canadian personal finance expert. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

This article is from from cbc.ca (CBC NEWS CANADA)

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