How the ‘tax’ on singles has people who live alone feeling the pinch
Economies of scale are clearly cheaper to manage, so in one sense: yes, there is a singles tax.
But reading through this article, the thing that really bugs me is this idea that “someone should do something” when people aren’t helping themselves. Jenn could get a roommate to reduce her costs or even get rid of her car as she lives in an area with great transit. But instead, she’s complaining about the high cost of living in the urban core.
The thing is, to live in an urban core we need to accept smaller spaces. When I was in my 20s and early 30s I always lived with roommates. We split the bills and sometimes even split food. It never occurred to me to live alone because even when rents were way cheaper than they are now, we didn’t want all of our money being eaten up by rent.
Then when I met Mr. Tucker we moved into a 510 square foot condo with our dog. It suited us just fine and got us out of the house for walks 3x a day and we spent an hour at the dog park every night after work – rain, shine or snow. We also walked or used public transit because owning a car in the city is just ridiculous. We did consider car-sharing companies but we didn’t follow through. Unless you were leaving the city on a trip, almost everything could be found in an urban centre and if we needed something outside of that, we just took cabs.
From the article:
“The average one-bedroom is now $2,458, according to a national report from rentals.ca in February. An apartment with a little more room and some backyard space for the adopted rescue mutt she dreams of would run her closer to $3,000 — and that’s a hefty price tag for just one person.”
In that same report however, a 2 bedroom would cost $3324 – or $1662 per person AND she could get a dog – if she got a roommate (who likes dogs). It is just flabbergasting to me that she lives in 595sq ft and is whining about how hard it is even though she has clearly not considered any money saving alternatives (get rid of the car, get a roommate who likes dogs and rent a larger place for cheaper). I respect if she chooses to live alone because she doesn’t want a roommate but she needs to own that choice and not complain about it.
There is the fundamental issue that I feel people in Canada and the US haven’t come to terms with: you are not entitled to have a lot of living space at a low cost in a great area. Of course, we all want this but it isn’t feasible because…we ALL want this! But in order to make livable, walkable cities we all need to make concessions and one of those concessions is space.
In 1910 the average square footage of a house in the US was 800sq ft and now they are 74% larger. The average size now is $2430 sq ft. Our expectations are higher now than they’ve ever been and we want these homes at a low rate. Our expectations are really entitledness at this point.
For a comparison, our last home was 1200sq ft and our kids had to share a room because Mr. Tucker works from home and he needed an office. Our current home – a midcentury modern – is 1300sq ft and has a partially finished basement with an office and a rec room, which probably brings it closer to 1900sq ft. The bonus here is that we now have a powder room and both kids have their own rooms.
While I am coming down hard on people’s expectations when it comes to housing, there is a definite truth when it comes to food. Grocers do reward multiple buys of products which could lead to people buying things they don’t need and just letting the extra go waste because it’s cheaper. I also sympathize with anyone who is raising kids or taking care of a loved one on one income. Those are definitely challenges that need myriad policy-driven approaches.
In Canada at least, the government could get back into the affordable housing business again. This is not a party-specific issue, either: multiple governments have ignored housing issues for the past 20 years and the clever solutions that all levels of government are proposing aren’t clever at all and in many ways are increasing the problem. On top of that, we are poised to let in more immigrants over the next few years without even knowing where they’ll live. While I definitely support the move, we need to think of how the infrastructure of this country will handle the influx.
What I think we need to accept is a tempering of our own inflated expectations. We are trying to live in a Friends world on a Roseanne budget. For our finances, our cities and our resources we need to look to places like Amsterdam with its great public infrastructure and to other European cities where they’ve normalized smaller spaces and where car ownership is just so incredibly expensive that everyone is invested in public transport and public spaces. Urban sprawl is not the solution to this issue, learning to live with less, is.