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‘Renters are not second-class citizens.’ Push is on to change culture, policy for long-term tenants

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Amanda Ferguson, 33, imagines Toronto’s astronomical rents are dinner- party fodder for people of her parents’ generation and her contemporaries living in small-town Ontario.

But renting is a longer-term and costly reality for more young professionals like Ferguson.

“It’s what you do to survive and balance the books,” she said.

At their own dinner parties, Ferguson and her friends talk about solutions to the high cost of housing — the possibility of commuting to Hamilton or moving to a smaller city — amid the mounting impossibility of owning in the Toronto region where the average detached or semi-detached home costs about $1 million.

A slavish devotion to home ownership in Canada, which has one of the highest rates in the world, and the growing gap between household incomes of tenants and homeowners in the Toronto region have helped attach a stigma to renting.

But with home ownership rates dipping in Canada, there’s a move afoot to normalize renting by pushing for policy and regulations that would give tenants the kind of security and control normally attached to home ownership.

Generation Squeeze, a Vancouver lobby group led by University of British Columbia professor Paul Kershaw, focuses on the economic plight of adults in their 20s, 30s and 40s struggling to pay for housing and child care. It has launched a petition and campaign called We Rent, to push politicians to level the playing field between renters and home owners.

The most obvious way to do that is by increasing the stock of affordable and market-rate, purpose-built rentals that provide tenants with the security and professional management that provides them with security of tenure, says Generation Squeeze.

It wants the government to help by making the business model for rental development competitive with condos by using tax incentives such as GST rebates.

The guiding principle of We Rent is that “renters are not second-class citizens.”

It’s a cultural phenomenon that we prioritize home ownership, said Kershaw. For a long time it wasn’t as challenging to own a home in Canada as it is today in cities, particularly the two least affordable centres, Toronto and Vancouver.

“It became a sign of adulthood — you left the nest, you’ve got your own space and there’s some autonomy that comes with home ownership,” he said.

It’s not just about whether you can own a pet or paint your apartment. It’s about knowing that, as a renter, your child can access a particular school and stay there until they graduate in the same way that a homeowner is secure they can stay in the neighbourhood.

In the five years she has lived in Toronto, Ferguson, a communications professional, has been evicted twice. In both cases the landlords said they were moving her out to move in their relatives. Both instances followed conversations about illegal rent increases, she said.

When she moved to Toronto, Ferguson paid $1,350 for a one-bedroom apartment. The next place cost $1,450. Forced out again into the city’s 1 per cent vacancy rate in August, the average price was about $2,000, she said.

The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Toronto in the third quarter of this year was $2,056, according to market research firm Urbanation.

“They say you’re supposed to spend 30 per cent of your income on housing. That number is no longer realistic in Toronto unless you room-mate up,” she said.

She cites cities like London, England, where even established adults have flat-mates as the only feasible way of affording a home.

After the second eviction Ferguson and her boyfriend decided to look for a place together. They lucked out with an older-large two-bedroom place for $2,450.

Growing up in Amhertsburg, a town of about 22,000 half an hour south of Windsor, Ferguson remembers a big house with a lawn and being able to run to her to her friends’ houses nearby.

Owning a home “is something that’s instilled in me as the next step,” she said. “It’s kind of sad that it’s potentially off the table or, in order to get that, I’d be looking at a three-hour commute round trip from Hamilton.”

The benefits of renting are often under-rated, said Chris Spoke, who rents part of a Leslieville house with his wife and baby daughter, and is a founder of Toronto advocacy group, Housing Matters.

“When you think about things like labour mobility, being flexible enough to move to where the opportunity is, you’re less tied down. That’s something that you see as we extoll the virtues and benefits of home ownership — you do see less labour mobility and less flexibility on these fronts than societies that have higher rental rates,” he said.

Canadians have subscribed to the notion that housing is an investment. Increasing the value of that investment is incompatible with creating more affordable housing, Spoke said.

About the same time builders stopped making purpose-built rentals in the Toronto region, municipalities enshrined zoning rules that protect established neighbourhoods from denser, more affordable housing such as apartments, duplexes or triplexes.

For many Canadians, home ownership is a retirement fund — a way of paying yourself — Kershaw said.

“We’ve distorted that to say you’re going to pay yourself in an asset that we want to grow faster than the economy. We want it to be the best part of your portfolio. That has gone hand in hand in many big cities in Canada with home prices escalating far faster than economic growth and as a result leaving earnings behind,” he said.

A generation ago it took five years of full-time work to save a 20 per cent downpayment on an average priced home in Vancouver and across Canada.

“If you flash forward to today . . . it would take 13 years to save a 20 per cent payment on an average priced home in Canada,” said Kershaw. “In Ontario it is 16 years. In British Columbia it’s 19 years. In the GTA, it is 22 years and in Metro Vancouver it is 27 years.”

Given how horrifying those statistics are, he said, “We just have to anticipate that we are on a route where more and more people are going to be renters for longer periods of their lives.”

Tess Kalinowski is a Toronto-based reporter covering real estate. Follow her on Twitter: @tesskalinowski

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Anglais

Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme

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Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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Anglais

‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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