“I keep my belongings in a storage unit and move from sublet to sublet”: True tales from the rental crisis
“At one point, I watched a rat crawl into the stove. But I knew that, as a subletter, there wasn’t much I could do”
Eva Foote, a 26-year-old actor and musician, has never had a long-term rental. Instead, she’s moved between 15 sublets across nine cities. She appreciates the freedom of not having a lease, but the impossibility of finding a stable place to live within her budget has ruled out settling down in Toronto.
I moved to Toronto four years ago, after graduating from the National Theatre School of Canada, in Montreal. I was keen to build my career as an actor, and everyone—from my professors to my new agent—encouraged me to move to Toronto.
I found a part-time job as a server for $12 an hour. On a good night, I could earn $100 in tips. It allowed me time to audition, but it also meant my rent budget was only $800, not nearly enough to get my own place. To find a spot, I posted on Facebook asking for leads. A former co-worker’s friend needed to sublet their one-bedroom apartment at Yonge and College—but only for a month. Rent was $1,475, way over my budget, but he hadn’t found anybody yet and was desperate. He let me have it for $650.
The unit was huge, painted electric orange and decorated with personal photos. It was hard not to feel like a guest, sleeping in his bed and using all his kitchenware. I kept my clothes in my suitcase, and on many nights I invited friends to keep me company. Still, I was grateful I’d found a spot—and incredibly thankful for my community of fellow actors, who had generously helped me find a place (and would continue to do so again and again).
I had to hustle to line up another sublet for when my month was up. A week into my stay, I was already on the hunt for my next home. Luckily, one of my friends was subletting her room for $700. The apartment was located in Kensington Market, above a restaurant, and she shared it with two people I didn’t know. I took it for two months.
Her room was cluttered, but I loved the bustling sounds of the market—a notable departure from my previous downtown sublet. Though the place had charm, being a short-term renter in a shared apartment came with some challenges. At one point, I watched a rat crawl into the stove. I told the other tenants about it, but because I was only a subletter, I knew there wasn’t much I could do.
From there, I rented a small room for $850 in a west-end townhouse that a friend had left vacant while she was on tour. Then, in September 2019, I was hired as a performer by the Stratford Festival Conservatory, and I moved into a place near the theatre. The gig lasted until March 2020. I weathered the first few months of the pandemic at my parents’ house, in Burnaby, then sublet a room in a friend’s house in Edmonton before deciding to try Toronto again in September 2021.
While I was investigating rental options, I was hired back at Stratford, where I lived and worked until October. Next, I was hired to appear in the Toronto stage production of Fall on Your Knees, but it didn’t start until late November. With nowhere to crash in the interim, I decided to travel to Berlin, where I was able to stay in my sister’s apartment. It was wonderful. Subletting is often challenging and isolating, but it can also be exciting. There’s a sense of adventure that comes with being untethered to a lease.
Since graduating, I’ve lived in nine cities and 15 sublets. I spend a lot of time searching for places to live and calculating the hours of work necessary to afford the cheapest accommodations possible. I keep my belongings in my car and a storage unit. Sometimes I crave consistency and dream of owning a potted plant. Other times I’m glad I get to experience so many new places. There’s enormous privilege in being this mobile. At the end of the day, I keep moving.
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