When my ex, Sarah, moved into her new home on a beautiful tree-lined street in the middle of one of Toronto's most charming and historical neighborhoods, I began a months-long search for a place nearby. Even though we didn't have any children together, it was an absolute priority for the both of us that I move within walking distance.
Sarah and I used to be married—we spent seven years together, moved across the country together, and then split up in 2005, shortly after we had settled in Toronto (together.) But, as lesbians so often do, we maintained our friendship through the ups-and-downs of our break-up. Sarah ended up marrying another woman and having a daughter, but our relationship remained a constant, and we eventually shifted our relationship into best friend territory.
Through all of this, we had shared a dream of living close to one another and raising our children together. We'd share the responsibilities, joys, and struggles of raising children—separately, together—offering each other both logistical and emotional support. So when Sarah and her partner split up in 2015, we decided to make our dream a reality. Sarah found an affordable home (with a great rental price) in the family-friendly neighborhood of Seaton Village. Shortly after her family moved in, I began my months-long search for a two-bedroom apartment for my 5-year-old daughter and myself.
This was easier dreamt than done. Toronto's housing market can be described in a few words: Competitive. Expensive. Intense. (Houses have actually been listed for $500K and sold for almost $1 million.) So my house hunting experience was full of many disappointments. Landlords turned me down as a single parent (which is illegal, but something many of them confessed to doing), saying it was too "risky" to rent to a one-income family. In the times a landlord would express a willingness to rent to me, someone would come along and offer the landlord a "signing bonus" of $2,000 in order to secure the coveted apartment in this family-friendly neighborhood. It was when I felt at my most disheartened and frustrated that I found the perfect rental: a second floor two-bedroom apartment on the same tree-lined street Sarah lived on. Without even offering the landlord a 'bonus,' I signed the lease, and with that, my daughter and I lived only a two-minute walk from our chosen family.
Our two homes have become "home base" to our children: My second-floor apartment in a multi-family house serves as the after-school "home base" where the kids decompress after their days and eat dinner. Sarah's single-family home is the "morning routine" home base, where the kids eat breakfast, get their teeth brushed and get ready for the day. We share drop off and pick up duties, and pool our childcare resources.
Yet, as enmeshed as our lives are, Sarah and I still live differently from married couples, or even intentional co-parents who live separately. We don't combine finances or share expenses. We have no legal rights to each other's children (nor do we want them). We live in separate homes. We know this situation might not work out forever, but for now, it's as perfect as can be.
We continue to enjoy all that our neighborhood—and each other's support—has to offer, but also keep an eye on how affordable rents allow us to keep this lifestyle. We are at the mercy of our landlord's decisions. The housing market in Toronto continues to be fiercely competitive, even more than when we found our current homes a few years ago. A 2018 report published by the city's Tenant Issues Committee indicates that Toronto's vacancy rate for rentals is at just 1.4 percent, prompting one city official to dub this a "housing crisis."
Being a single parent in such an expensive city is challenging at times and worrisome at others. I rely heavily on the support I get from Sarah, and there are times when I worry about what would happen if one of our landlords decides to sell the home they rent to us. If Sarah and I didn't live in the same area, my childcare expenses would increase, which would mean that living in this neighborhood—and perhaps even the city of Toronto—would no longer be possible. Still, I try not to "borrow sorrow from tomorrow" and instead focus on what I currently have: a happy life I've built with my chosen family in a city where it really feels like the world is at our fingertips.