Renting in Toronto
July 10, 2010 2:20 PM   Subscribe

Toronto Filter: I will likely be moving to Toronto in the next 2 months, and I need help deciding on a neighbourhood. Advice on resources for finding a good rental would be awesome too.

I just landed a job in Toronto, and assuming everything goes smoothly over the next month or so, I'm going to move to the city. For the purposes of this question, assume I work at the Exhibition Go station (I don't, but it's close enough location-wise).

Which neighbourhoods would be suitable for someone who doesn't make a lot of money, wants to live alone, and would prefer a commute shorter than 40 minutes (by bus, streetcar, or subway)?

I need a neighbourhood that is safe (I'm a single female, out a lot at night) and affordable. My goal is $850/month, but I can stretch it to $1,000/month if I have to. I know that's not a lot of money, but it's what I'm working with for now.

Wish list:

1. Solo accommodations - a bachelor or 1 bedroom would be great. I have friends who are looking for roommates, but I'm not interested in the roommate thing right now.

2. Necessities nearby - groceries, post office, pharmacy. I don't need to be in a trendy area with tons of restaurants and cute shops, but if there were a coffee shop or two nearby, I'd be thrilled.

3. Transit easily accessible. I don't want to live in an area with crappy transit options. A 10-15 minute walk to the subway or streetcar is fine.

Any thoughts, Toronto MeFites? Am I asking too much? Am I doomed?

(Bonus question: Beyond Craigslist, what are my best bets for finding a decent place?)

Thanks so much for any help, suggestions, and advice.
posted by gursky to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I live in what's called 'bloordale' aka 'blansdowne' which is sound bloor & dufferin, a quick bus ride down to exhibition go station. It's just in the early stages of gentrification. My 1-BR is $850/month. You would definitely want to scope it out first - there are still some sketchy pockets - but it's not really a 'personal safety at risk' kind of sketchy.

Liberty Village is right on top of exhibition go, but it's pretty condofied and I don't know if there's much cheap housing there. It's also a little disconnected from the rest of the city
posted by sevenyearlurk at 2:55 PM on July 10, 2010

Bloor and Duff were in the early stages of gentrification when I moved away from Toronto in 2000, so I find that description a little odd. That said, I would second this recommendation based on the experiences of friend who live nearby- actually more like St Clair and Dufferin.

No part of Toronto is unsafe. It's a crime-free paradise compared not only to every major US city but just about every major Canadian city as well. I live in Calgary and though I'd never describe it as unsafe, it's much scarier than Toronto.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 3:07 PM on July 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Stranger attacks are extremely rare in most North American cities. As a female teenager, I wandered through some of the sketchiest areas of Toronto alone, in the middle of the night, and was never so much as harassed. That said, the safest places to be are always where there are people, even if they are poor people, as opposed to underpopulated areas with no eyes on the street.

Exhibition is near Parkdale, which is a nice mixed neighbourhood (some cheap housing, some gentryfying). Friend of mine got a small one-bed for under 700, though she may have roaches (prob with many apartment buidings -- houses are less susceptible). At 800 and above, there are good studios and 1-beds; under 700, and the quality drops off dramatically.

Parkdale should have groceries, definitely has coffee shops and vibrant neighbourhoody things. Has a sketchy reputation that was somewhat undeserved in the 1990s and has been gentrifying since; it's basically Toronto's Brooklyn.

Just one bus or streetcar away -- there is Dufferin & Bloor, Bathurst & Bloor, Bathurst & anything (all great places). Bathurst & College to Dufferin & college is Little Italy -- high quality coffee there. And I've seen big 1-beds advertised for $750+utilities at Dufferin & College.

If you stay south of Bloor, east of High Park and west of Yonge street (east of Yonge is great, but far from your work), there is no bad transit. In Toronto, the worst transit and the poorest areas are all in the suburbs. I can't think of anywhere in the west end where I would be more than 5 min from a bus/streetcar stop; even the 24 hour stuff is only about a 20 min walk apart. yes, we have 24-hour buses; the first few are called the vomit-comets with good reason, as the bars shut down, but the rest are fine.

Craigslist is actually quite bad for non-shares. When looking a little while ago, I really like -- they had a better class of apartments showing, though not for more money than the Craigslist listings. You see more listings from professional management companies, who are often much better landlords (responsive, competent) than some of the amateur landlords renting out their crawlspace as a basement apt on Craigslist.
posted by jb at 3:20 PM on July 10, 2010

Toronto rents are kinda expensive close to downtown/west-end. You can find a place for less than $1000, but not a nice place in a nice hood unless you are lucky. Get lucky.

There are plenty of cheap apartments in old units in Parkdale, which is reasonable walking distance from Exhibition Go. Some of these old units are pretty cruddy, and 'sketchy' is actually an accurate word to describe some parts of Parkdale, which is also interesting and partially gentrified/gentrifying. I don't live there anymore, but I when I did I liked it. Also, I would define 'sketchy' as shifty looking characters hanging around, and Parkdale has enough of these, but the actual violent crime rate is not really that bad compared to many other places.

The good news is that the condo boom has taken a bit of pressure off of the low vacancy rates in Toronto. A few years back it was impossible to find anything affordable downtown. Now it just takes some effort, but it is possible.
posted by ovvl at 3:23 PM on July 10, 2010

thanks for the suggestions so far.

just to clarify about the safety thing: i'm very familiar with Toronto (grew up close to Toronto, spend a lot of time there) so i know it's relatively safe. i just want to be sure i move to an area with lots of people around (as jb mentioned), not somewhere that is pretty much abandoned at night.

thanks again!
posted by gursky at 3:29 PM on July 10, 2010

Bloor & Dufferin is definitely not gentrified yet -- the stores are still the kind I can shop in. I looked at a nice studio for about 600 last summer just there. It was small and in a basement, but well-lit and the tenant was quite happy with it.

Gentrification can take decades -- and sometimes is stymied. Parkdale has been gentrifying since the early 90s, in that middle class types have been buying houses there (and it's supposed to be very chichi now), but the rental properties still have a wide mix from pretty&cheap to cheaper&notsopretty to incrediablycheap&incrediblyscary.

At your budget, you're in the very pretty range. Actually, my friend is currently in a large 1-bed in the very fashionable area of Bloor&Spadina for $1000/month. You still have lots of choice, as a single person (as oppose to a family), in the 850 range.
posted by jb at 3:30 PM on July 10, 2010

Seconding I've found my last three apartments using it and have been happy. It's super easy to use and has just had more and more listings each time I've gone back to use it.

In terms of area, Bloor & Dufferin or Bloor & Dovercourt have nice places that can be found in your price range. Or even going north to St. Clair will work - both the Dufferin and Ossington buses are really good to get you south quickly.
posted by machine at 3:36 PM on July 10, 2010

For foot traffic -- Queen & Ossington, Queen & Lansdowne are lively -- Ossington is taking off with restaurants. The whole of Bloor street from Jane through to Yonge has lots of foot traffic. College btw Dufferin & Yonge --

basically, anywhere that isn't railroad or industrial on google-maps has lots of eyes on the street. Even quiet residential areas are densely packed and will have people in the houses around.

The only really empty areas I remember around there (when I worked near Exhibition Princess Gate) was King & Straughan, and where the new condos were going in behind the (very safe) mental hospital at Queen & Ossington. That said, there was a police station on Straghan (and yes, I'm totally misspelling that).

Dufferin Gate side of the Ex (Parkdale) is more residential and nicer.
posted by jb at 3:37 PM on July 10, 2010

Bathurst and St. Clair is a magnet for your demographic. My wife was living there when we met. Lots of rental in the two blocks north of St. Clair on Bathurst. When we moved in April, we were paying $975 for a bright one bedroom.

It is one of the best places for transit in the city. The streetcar right of way across St. Clair is finally done after many years of waiting. The Bathurst of bus is frequent service all day, which will get you down to bathurst and Bloor in a snap. And, St. Clair west subway is right there as well.

There's a huge Loblaws just east on St. Clair, with an LCBO. There's an open-til-midnight Shoppers Drug Mart just west on St. Clair. The stretch west to Oakwood is full of good shops and good food, a cupcake place, Boom! breakfast, a couple of bakeries, and clothing shops. The bars are a bit lacking, but Legends is a friendly dive with a weekday wing night two doors west from the corner. Hop the streetcar to get to Scallywag's and a couple of other bars at Yonge and St. Clair. Mefi mail if you have any questions about the neighbourhood.
posted by thenormshow at 3:55 PM on July 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Dundas is the darkhorse. Go west of Bathurst on Dundas and you will find nice, cheap places. It is in proximity to the "happening" Queen and College streets without actually being on them, which is an advantage both in price and in not having to deal with people pissing on your steps. is the best. Craigslist is okay too but watch out for silly prices.
posted by gonna get a dog at 4:06 PM on July 10, 2010

The easiest way to find a place in an area with lots of apt buildings (bathurst and st clair, yonge and st clair, yonge and eglinton, avenue road between eglinton and bloor, broadview and danforth) is to walk around and call supers when you see vacancy signs in nice looking buildings. They will often show you an available apt on the spot.
There are advantages to living in a divided house and/or having an independent landlord, but it's hard to know what type of landlord you're getting before hand.

However, apt buildings owned by property management companies almost always keep the building clean and well-repaired and fix things quickly without argument (to protect their investment) and they tend to scrupulously follow the rules when it comes to leases and other things.
posted by thenormshow at 4:54 PM on July 10, 2010

I live on Dundas between Roncesvalles and Landsdowne and highly recommend it. I have a 1000 sf loft with 14 ft ceilings, exposed brick walls and ceiling beams, in a secure, quiet building. I pay just over a grand inclusive (1035). Coffee shops are close as are two grocery stores (No Frills and Loblaws), three 24 hour streetcars: Dundas, College, and Roncesvalles/King (two stop right outside my building), the Landsdowne bus and both Dundas West and Landsdowne subway stations are in walking distance. There are also ample local markets, a weekly organic/farmer's market, etc etc. This area is also absolutely safe.

Everyone's mentioning Dufferin so I assume the Go station you're referring to is at the foot of Dufferin. Dufferin's a 10 minute walk from me or a 3 minute streetcar ride.

Don't know if viewit allows to search by postal code but if so, mine's M6R 1W5. Streets to search for on Craigslist would include Dundas West, Landsdowne, Sorauren, College, St. Clarens, Brock, Roncesvalles, as well as Upper Parkdale and Parkdale North.

Just as a point of interest, lots of people are recommending Bathurst and St. Clair. I lived there for 12 years. It's very nice, but as a "get out and walk around your hood" neighborhood, it doesn't come close to Parkdale, Dundas West, Little Italy, or even, god forbid, the Annex. It's a nice enough place to live but you'll be forever getting on transit or your bike to go anywhere interesting.
posted by dobbs at 5:46 PM on July 10, 2010

I found some of the building reviews at to be helpful when considering my rental options in TO.
posted by kaudio at 7:37 PM on July 10, 2010

I work in Liberty village and live on Roncesvalles (~3km West of Liberty village). Last year I lived downtown (Wellington & John about ~3km East of Liberty Village).

Local things you need to know.

Avoid the heart of Parkdale (roaches are guaranteed unless you're in a house). Stay East of Dufferin or West of Sorauren.

If you're going to live East of work (in downtown) you'll likely be taking the king street car, but it is always sardine can. During rush hour it's understandably packed in off hours they cut back service and maintain high density.

If you're going to live West of work (High Park), stay on the East of the park. Roncesvalles has been under construction for over a year. Next week (July 14th 2010) they'll be ripping it up for the final time to lay down the street car tracks. This will continue until about November 2010.

One co-worker was living in a great place on the North side of High Park but moved into Parkdale to cut his transit commute from "40 minutes down to 10" (with Roncesvalees torn up, he was taking the Subway to a bus but sometimes the first few subway trains were full).

Bikes rule. My commute was always ~6 minutes.

Crime isn't a problem. I have never heard of a random assault in the area. There was a Murder at King and Dufferin a while ago. But AFAIK that wasn't random.

Finally at $850/month IMHO you're dreaming unless it's shared.
posted by ecco at 8:58 PM on July 10, 2010

I had a friend who grew up in the "heart of Parkdale" with hippie parents who often didn't do dishes. She had no roaches.

As I commented in the other Toronto-roach thread, roaches are particularly a problem in cement constructed buildings, and much less so in wood-framed. She lived in an apartment which was a converted rowhouse (connected to other houses). I grew up in a 12 storey building. And my family was the one with roaches, even when we were very strict on foodstorage and cleaning.

As for whether 850 is enough -- well, everyone had their own standards and expectations. But when I was looking last summer, I saw 1-beds in nice areas ranging between 800-1000; my friend is currently renting at the corner of Bloor & Spadina for $1000/month -- she has about 600 sqft, 1-bed, in what I would say is a nice building and no roaches or inkling of roaches.

Buildings with doormen and pools may be beyond 850/month, but there are plenty of nice places is not as fashionable locations (and closer to your work anyways).

I would second dobbs's comments on St Clair & Bathurst -- nice area, but more semi-urban than urban in terms of neighbourhood life. Also, it's probably an hour away from your work by TTC. Dundas & Bloor or Dufferin would be only abt 30-40 minutes.

I would avoid St Clair&Dufferin. Some wag has called it up&coming, which leads would be landlords to offer spaces that should be illegal to rent for human occupation. The area itself is very deserted looking and hard to get around by on TTC. And I grew up in Rexdale (aka north Etobicoke, which is half nice houses, half industrial and rest slum. I didn't live in the houses) -- so that's saying a lot.
posted by jb at 7:25 AM on July 11, 2010

Blansdowne! It's awesome, except for some minor sketchiness. It's next to two subway stations (Lansdowne and Dufferin), a Go line, and is directly North of the Jameson exit/enterence onto the Gardiner. It's also a short drive up to the Allen and on to the 401. It is surrounded by grocery stores: I can walk to a Loblaws, a Price Chopper, and two No Frills. There are a few really good brunch spots near by. There are now vintage shops and art galleries on the street. The nearest Post office is in the Junction, and there is a Shopper's Drugmart a block over at Ossington.

posted by chunking express at 9:03 AM on July 13, 2010

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