Heather Mallick Opinion
Aug. 13, 2019
"Quality of life," I said to the realtors. A doctor once told me that was the trick of being alive. I have put the phrase to a multiplicity of uses since then, sometimes even appropriately.
I am selling up and moving house, an interminable process in which quality of life is rarely mentioned, not compared to location, asking price, sold for, bridge loan, unique vista, filled with charm, staging, and other once-prosaic words that now fill me with a sick dread.
Everyone hates moving house: packing, buying, selling, doing dire math. The transitional state is a miserable one. We're doing it because I want this elusive "quality of life," ill-defined but I'll know it when I see it.
It's exhausting, and at a certain point, all you want is a place with walls, preferably with a roof on top. You learn more about your fellow man and how he lives than you ever wished to.
Your line in the sand, "renovated kitchen," is later downgraded to "functional kitchen" and "closet near the front door to hang coats" becomes "bedroom closet" which becomes "will fit a bed" which becomes "twin bed, possibly Murphy."
You're seeking a balance between affordability and quality of life. So I was stunned to learn that some new Toronto condos, even in wealthy areas, do not have ovens or windows in the bedroom or actual bedrooms because the condos lack interior walls.
This isn't a question of open-concept charm, which I don't actually like because I was raised in a family. I like walls a lot.
Imagine having sliding glass ones. It's one thing to buy a micro-condo, which used to be called a studio apartment (you'd rent, not buy, because it was another kind of life-transitional state) but it's another thing to call it a one-bedroom micro-condo when at times there is no definable bedroom.
It pains me to read about Generation Z and young millennial micro-condo-owners struggling to praise domestic matchboxes. Yes, there are a lot of apartments in Paris smaller than that, as one chirpy owner told the Star, but people don't mind because they're in Paris. Here, you're near the Rogers Centre.
You say you love the Murphy bed because in the daytime it becomes a couch? That means you are sleeping on your couch.
This is exactly what you came to Toronto for, a life where you will avoid doing just that. It is now considered a luxury to have a room for each function, a bedroom to sleep in, a kitchen to cook in, and somewhere to seat your friends.
And it distresses me when a young owner tells the Star that her best friend is her roommate. There is a law that living together kills friendships dead. There are other laws; I'll let you figure them out.
Some of these rental micro-condos are in Yorkville, which means they're not condos, they're more like rentals owned by rich landlords. Those glass towers could be better described as apartment buildings, just like the ones I lived in when I was a student, except I had an oven, walls, etc.
It was a filthy oven, but I could roast a turkey in it. That's when I began to think of myself as an adult, that I could do that and make little souffles as an accompaniment for what was likely a fairly bad dinner, but it was my creation alone.
You become an adult when you buy yourself a vacuum cleaner, when you live alone for the first time, when you have a top sheet under your duvet, when you hang curtains as opposed to a flag, when you refuse to sleep with someone because you know they'll be hopeless at it and you don't have time for that anymore.
Some of these things can't be done in a micro-condo. Now, you consider yourself lucky to have a window to hang a flag on. Your quality of life is below-grade.
As downtown condos shrink, asking young people to pay exorbitant rents to an older rentier class - the rich living off distant investments - is a betrayal. It's a life distorted, and a low-quality one, too.
Heather Mallick is a columnist based in Toronto covering current affairs.
Follow her on Twitter: @HeatherMallick
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