I saunter into toronto's housing crisis with an air of cocky delusion. "Damn the housing crisis, I'll find a better pad for better value," I tell myself, gazing scornfully at my one-bedroom basement apartment while its floorboards rattle with yet another transit tremor. Armed with a red pen, I sift coolly through the classifieds, holding out for the one. Weeks pass before I spot all the glorious abbreviations I can dream of in one neat square, and all for the same price as my dark, rumbling den.
Slipping into a conservative little number, because appearances are everything in the apartment-hunting game, I put on my most charming face for the tipsy landlord. Quiet? Yes. Clean? Yes. Responsible? Yes. Yes. Yes.
The place is mine. Toasts are made. The housing crisis isn't so bad after all. But dark clouds loom on the horizon.
There's been a mistake. The rent will be several hundred more than advertised, I'm told. I choke. With no lease yet signed, I have no leg to stand on -- nor a place to live for very much longer, since I've given my old landlord formal notice.
I cling like a frightened child to my dreams of square footage and a deck. "There's still hope," I mutter to myself. My delusions of grandeur are morphing into beads of sweat.
I begin tackling people for their classifieds. Chasing leads on my lunch hour and into the night, I carry different jackets in my bag and different personalities up my sleeve, only to have the words "Sorry, it's been rented" drummed repeatedly into my ear.
In the notorious scrums of open houses, I always lose. My bank account isn't padded. My credit is average, and being a student doesn't help.
With every day that passes, my list of demands shrinks. I find myself standing in cramped, mouldy rooms thinking, "4 by 10 isn't so small. Who needs light anyway?"
I can't, however, bring myself to settle. I close my eyes and dream of clean, sunny rooms. But the end of the month is nearing, and I start popping antacids. I must go to interviews better prepared, I think. Maybe bank statements, a criminal background check.
The borders of my search creep further into Toronto's nether regions. Layers of downtown snobbery are shed with each dash of red ink. And it's out there, in the eastern reaches, that I find all I'm looking for, as if singing from the heavens, only to be rejected. Promises have been made. I'm too late, the landlord tells me.
I reach for another antacid. But, no, this time I will not take it lying down. Songs of love and devotion somehow find a voice: I will empty my wallet. I will bear your firstborn. I will love and cherish the apartment till death do us part. For a brief moment, I see the glimmer of possibility in his eye, and I know that in one renter's hell there is hope.
I find myself in cramped rooms, thinking, "Who needs light?"