Urbs vs. Burbs: “Finding a daycare spot was a breeze, and it’s half the price of downtown”

Urbs vs. Burbs: “Finding a daycare spot was a breeze, and it’s half the price of downtown”

Richmond Hill resident Leila Parkhomenko on the benefits of decamping from the core

Philipp Parkhomenko, Leila Parkhomenko and their one-year-old son, Leonardo, live in a 2,200-square-foot rental in Richmond Hill for $3,800 a month.

Who: Philipp Parkhomenko, 27, a realtor; Leila Parkhomenko, 28, an accounts receivable assistant at a law firm; and their one-year-old son, Leonardo
Where they live: a 2,200-square-foot rental with a 2,000-square-foot yard in Richmond Hill for $3,800 a month
Where they used to live: a 650-square-foot condo with a 150-square-foot balcony in the Annex for $3,354 a month in mortgage payments and condo fees
Commute now versus then: 53 minutes versus 20 minutes

More Urbs vs. Burbs

I was born in Uzbekistan, and my family moved to Richmond Hill when I was five, but I always wanted to live in Toronto. In 2019, after getting a job at a downtown law firm, I moved into the city and rented a place in the Danforth.

My now-husband, Philipp, had bought a two-bed, two-bath pre-construction condo at Avenue and Davenport a few years earlier. It was completed in September of 2021, and the day we moved in, I found out I was pregnant.

When our son, Leonardo, was born, I was so excited to explore my city with him. But navigating transit with a stroller was tough, and during rush hour I’d get dirty looks for being in everyone’s way. Still, I believed we could make it work in Toronto. I liked the idea of Leo going to a diverse downtown school. Once he began to crawl, we started rethinking things. Space was tight. We had to push the dining room table against the wall every time we wanted to roll out his play mat. Sure, we had two bedrooms, but one of them pulled triple duty as Leo’s nursery and both of our home offices.

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By last fall, we were desperate to upsize. There was a three-bedroom unit for rent in our building, but it was roughly $10,000 a month, which was almost triple our budget. I thought we could find an older, larger apartment elsewhere, but there was nothing in our price range. We were also stressed because my return-to-work date was approaching and we couldn’t find a daycare spot. I had reached out to 68 places and was wait-listed at several of them.

Everything changed in April, when we were dog-sitting for Philipp’s parents, who own a townhouse in Aurora. Having space to spread out and a backyard felt great, so we decided to look at rentals in the area. The first spot was a brand new three-bed, four-bath townhouse with a big fenced-in backyard in the Oak Ridges neighbourhood of Richmond Hill, just off Yonge Street. As soon as we walked in, I started crying—it hit me how cramped we had been. The living room alone was almost the same size as our entire condo.

The family rents a brand new three-bed, four-bath townhouse with a big fenced-in backyard in the Oak Ridges neighbourhood of Richmond Hill

When I saw a family pass by with their kid in a push car, I began imagining what our lives would look like here. There was a bus stop in front of the house and shops, bakeries and grocery stores nearby. It didn’t feel like part of a cookie-cutter suburban development, plus our parents lived around the corner. Free babysitting! We knew we had to have it.

We signed a lease and moved in at the beginning of May. Our lives are so much better and easier here. With the extra living space, I was able to set up a Montessori-style playroom for Leo—his toys and books are at eye level so he can choose what he wants. When he wakes up from a nap with lots of energy, we let him loose in the backyard to run around or play in the kiddie pool. If the weather’s bad, we can kick a soccer ball around indoors. These are all things that were impossible in our Toronto space. Getting Leo into daycare was also a breeze, and although we were worried that the suburbs wouldn’t be diverse enough, the instructors at his daycare speak French, Bengali, Farsi and Russian.

With the extra living space in Richmond Hill, the family set up a Montessori-style playroom for their son

We’re paying $730 a month in daycare fees, half of what we would have downtown. Our utility bills are up by about $100, but our grocery bills are down 30 per cent. When we lived in the condo, the closest grocery stores were Whole Foods and Kitchen Table; their stuff is so expensive, it’s highway robbery. We’d often travel 15 minutes to Loblaws for food instead, but our fridge and freezer were so small that the extra effort could feel a little pointless. Now we buy in bulk and save a ton. I commute downtown by GO train three days a week, which takes me a little under two hours round-trip and costs $12, but it’s worth it.

We kept our downtown condo as an investment property and are renting it out for $3,400, which covers the mortgage. We already know we won’t be moving back to Toronto. Instead, we head downtown as a family once or twice a month to have brunch and go to an exhibition or the aquarium. Being in the city feels special now. And coming home feels even better.