Toronto seems to be not only the centre of Canada these days but also the centre of global diversity and attention ever since people like Drake and teams like The Jays have prominently put it on the map. So inevitably, millennials are flocking to the city that promises big opportunities and growth.
However, whether you’re living in Toronto or planning on moving there soon, you’ve probably heard the same incredulous remark: “Isn’t it really expensive to live there?”.
And the answer is: yes. There’s no hiding the fact that Toronto has one of the highest costs of living of any city in Canada. In fact, it’s the second most expensive city in the country next to Vancouver, B.C.
So you might be wondering how so many millennials have managed to inhabit downtown Toronto on a presumably humble budget?
Whether a millennial is a “starving student”, unemployed, or a professional who is doing pretty alright, they’ve likely not been in the workforce long enough to accumulate any substantial wealth. The good news is that Toronto offers a wide range of housing options for millennials in various neighbourhoods each with its own unique charm and affordability.
If you know where to look for apartments or homes, Toronto can provide an ideal atmosphere for any millennial-seeking big city amenities with authentic character.
While some Toronto-based millennials opt to rent or buy housing in white-picket-fence suburbia (or “the GTA” as the locals call it), this article showcases three hip and practical downtown neighbourhoods that warrant a premium price tag for you if you’re looking to stay, live and work in the city.
Church Wellesley Village
Church Wellesley Village (commonly referred to as “The Village”) is an animated neighbourhood home to a large portion of Toronto’s LGBTQ community. Located just steps away from Toronto’s flagship Yonge Street, the Village is ideally situated if you work in the downtown core.
This neighbourhood was considered a seedy part of town during the 1920’s. The Great Depression reduced it to a low-end strip of rooming houses. In 1950, gentrification began in the community and the neighbourhood’s appeal has been growing ever since.
Today, the Village is an undeniably hip neighbourhood of Toronto. The streets are flooded with young and diverse individuals leading vibrant lifestyles. There are countless boutique restaurants, cafés, bars, and shops lining the streets. Church Wellesley Village is a safe space where you can be whoever you want to be.
Naturally, this exquisite part of town comes with a price tag. According to recent results on the Realtor.ca rent-scanning app, an average rent for a 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom unit in this neighbourhood is in the arena of $2,000/month. While this rent is on the steep side for a lot of millennials, it’s worth noting this neighbourhood’s proximity to entertainment and transit before jumping to a conclusion.
If you like to bike, Church Wellesley Village is about a 5-8 minute bike ride from Toronto’s infamous Dundas Square. If you work in the Bay Street area, you’re looking at about a 15-minute walk to work.
Or perhaps you want to live in the hustle and bustle of the Village but need to work further away from the downtown core?
No problem – this neighbourhood boasts its very own Wellesley subway station on the Yonge-University-Spadina line which offers complete access to Toronto’s impressive TTC transit system. You can get just about anywhere in the GTA with a few steps to the station and the drop of a token.
Food & Entertainment
You’ll be pleased to know that there’s a convenient Loblaws grocery store located right at the corner of Church and Carlton. This modern grocery store makes shopping a breeze as you can pick up items on your way home from work.
If you want to enjoy the exciting nightlife that the Village has to offer, Crews & Tangos is a must-see club known for its charismatic drag performances. This establishment is a landmark in Toronto and guaranteed to set the stage for a fun night out.
Overall, Church Wellesley Village offers a comfortable and welcoming environment for any millennial looking to appreciate Toronto’s downtown amenities and its remarkable diversity.
Veering about 3 km north-west of Church Wellesley Village, you will find Toronto’s equally popular and hip neighbourhood, The Annex.
Millennials appreciate The Annex for its relatively affordable rent prices and reasonable proximity to downtown. Located close to the University of Toronto, The Annex features a wide range of older but architecturally exquisite apartment buildings suitable for students and young professionals alike. According to recent listings on Realtor.ca and Kijiji, rent for a one-bedroom apartment in The Annex ranges from approximately $1,600 – $2,800 per month.
The Annex features the ultra-convenient St. George TTC station, located on a node of the green and yellow subway lines, making your commute an effortless task. Depending on where you live, you can also hop on at the Spadina or Bathurst stations.
The neighbourhood is about a 45-minute walk to the Toronto Eaton Centre. This commute reduces to about 15 minutes if you opt to bike or take public transit. If you’re a student at the University of Toronto, your walk to school takes anywhere from 10-20 minutes.
Food & Entertainment
If you enjoy shopping, Bloor Street offers a vast array of chic bookstores, independent clothing shops, restaurants, patios and much more. You will have no trouble spending money in this neighbourhood!
Board games fans need to check out Toronto’s famous Snakes and Lattes board game café located in The Annex at 600 Bloor Street West.
Another popular destination in this neighbourhood is the Madison Avenue Pub (also known as “The Maddie”) on 14 Madison Avenue. This student-favourite drinking establishment consists of several patios, TVs, pool tables, and occasional live bands.
Whether you’re in your 20’s or your 30’s, The Annex is a great place to live in Toronto. Offering all of the necessary amenities with a slightly quieter atmosphere than the Village, The Annex lets you work or study comfortably in the heart of Toronto while being only steps away from the artistic and colourful Kensington Market.
Photo by Chris Lee
Last but not least, Toronto touts its own version of Brooklyn in its trendy neighbourhood, Leslieville. This community is located east of Toronto’s downtown core, relatively close to the Beaches. Identified by many locals as an ideal destination for young families and couples in their early 30’s, this east-side neighbourhood offers the potential to have a backyard near downtown.
The catch? It may not be within everyone’s price range.
Leslieville has been gentrifying for many years and is now an expensive part of town to call your home. Most of the active listings on Realtor.ca show monthly rents in excess of $2,000 per month for a 1-bedroom apartment.
Ideal for career-oriented young professionals with an appreciation for culture, Leslieville offers a fashionable assortment of retro furniture shops, design studios, indie cafés and craft beer micro-breweries.
Modern condo buildings and luxury loft apartments have sprouted up on many of Leslieville’s thoroughfares, including Gerrard Street.
The great thing about Leslieville is that it is located right in the middle between Toronto’s Downtown and the Beaches. It takes around 30 minutes of relaxed Sunday walk to get to the sandy Woodbine Beach, the largest of the four Toronto beaches.
If you like biking, the ride to Toronto Downtown will take you about 20 minutes,
depending on where exactly you are heading. Getting to the University of Toronto by bike will only take around 17-20 minutes. If you prefer public transport, Leslieville is best accessible by streetcar. If you hop on the bus 501 at Queen Street East you will be in the Downtown in about 20-30 minutes.
It might not be the most famous nightlife spot, but Queen Street East boasts a great bar scene. Still prefer going out in Toronto’s Downtown or the West-end? No problem! The night bus 301 will get you back home safe at any time.
Food & Entertainment
If your income allows you to hang your hat in Leslieville, rest assured you will have no trouble finding delicious food in the area. Considered one of Toronto’s finest brunch neighbourhoods, Leslieville consists of many gourmet and unique restaurants that serve a variety of delectable foods.
Be sure to check out the neighbourhood’s Pied A Terre market if you enjoy handmade arts and crafts.
From career opportunities to culture to nightlife to cuisine, Toronto is a world-class city. If you choose to live downtown versus the suburbs, you get the benefit of avoiding the city’s traffic. Commuting from the suburbs to downtown can easily become a 1-4 hour commitment per day, depending on where you live. So if you value your time and would prefer not to pay for a car, perhaps living closer to downtown is a good option for you.
There is no doubt that Toronto isn’t the cheapest city to live in. However, with its wealth of exciting new ventures, an energetic nightlife and plethora of arts and culture, the premium may very well be worth it.