Off the Board, Opinion

Stop the swap—I want an apartment, too

CALLING ALL BROKE STUDENTS: Spacious two-and-a-half with a combined living room-bedroom literally two steps from the kitchen, bathroom, and front door! I’ have loved living in this cozy place, paying only $1,775 a month, with no utilities included. Anyone would be lucky to snatch this place up. But I’m only looking to swap. So, any of you first apartment searchers, fuck off, because I know you can’not offer the five-and-a-half, three bathroom, with a balcony the size of the interior, rare gem with lots of brick and natural light apartment that I’m looking for.

Anyone who has recently spent some time on Marketplace looking for a new apartment will know that this is all too common. Any listing with reasonable rent is only available to “swap,” meaning people won’t have to searchlook for an apartment—it’s in the deal. If you want theirs, you’ll have to sell them on your own current living space. While this might be one clever way to avoid rent increases, some of us are being dealt a bad hand from the get-go.

Setting aside the gut-wrenching odds of having a place that meets all of the swapper’s expectations, those of us looking for our first apartments have been virtually locked out of the affordable apartment market. Current tenants leave many of us no choice but to settle for over-priced apartments with exploitative landlords, which can lead to problems like food insecurity and too many roommates if the majority of our paychecks are dedicated to rent. 

Between July 2021 to July 2022, rent in the province of Quebec is about 49 per cent higher than the Canadian average and has been trending upward for the past three years. A place to live is not the only expense university students incur—yes, there is tuition, but volatile food prices have hit wallets pretty hard over the last two years. In 2022, Canadians saw their food bills increase by about 9.8 per cent due to inflation, and we can expect another five to seven per cent in 2023. 

On the other hand, Canadian salaries—base salaries at least, corporate executives who benefit from the precarity of the working class’ living situations are exempt from this analysis—grew by four per cent on average, the highest increase in the last 20 years. But this growth does not even begin to match the inflated cost of living. 

Where does this leave us lowly students? Some soon-to- be fresh out of university like myself—I was lucky to live at home during my studies—are looking for a job that will pay well enough to afford our own space without working 80 hours a week. I am desperate, and finding a decently priced apartment that isn’t a shit hole would be a huge relief. 

I reached a point in my search where I offered to hunt for apartments for swappers. I kid you not when I say that I messaged a man who had a beautiful three-and-a-half with brick walls, lots of natural light, and a big kitchen. I told him that I was sorry for messaging without having an apartment to swap, but I would be willing to find him one if he let me have his. He politely declined my offer, emphasizing that he just wasn’t desperate enough to enlist my house-hunting skills. 

That’s when I hit rock bottom. What had I done? Had I really just messaged a random stranger offering to find him the apartment of his dreams just so that I could pay rent under $1,250? Yes, yes I did. But I am not ashamed or embarrassed. Instead, I choose to believe that I am a product of the “swapping” system we live in.

So, here I am, announcing to the readers of The McGill Tribune that I am looking for a two-bedroom apartment in the Plateau, cat-friendly, and preferably with brick walls and lots of natural light because I will be pursuing my passion for horticulture when I am no longer inundated with school work. And to all you swappers out there, give it up. Nobody is going to trade their five-and-a-half with a balcony for your studio with no windows.

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One Comment

  1. Charles Rainville, student at UQAM

    I am trying to swap my apartment because I cannot bear what happened to the Plateau where i rented in 2016. St,.Denis street was then a fast and efficient North American artery. It is now slowed down .and castrated by a bike path, usuless crosswalks at each half-block and trees planted right in the middle of the street to force traffic to zigzag. Mt.Royal street right on the corner is now pedestrian 4 months a year. For a motorcyclist like myself, coming and going from there has become a nightmare, I want out.

    I will take any affordable open-air unit on the West Side right off an expressway without any parks or schools nearby to escape that utopian European design folly that has descended onto Québec society this past decade.

    Landlords have become totally greedy. This is why I need to swap. Most of you would line up to snatch my 750 square-foot loft half a block away from the métro for under $900.

    Not everyone shares the same tastes or values. I rented in North America on an efficient and fast main street and am not looking for any kind of “transition” to another lifestyle in my lifetime. Environmentalism is nothing else than a fad. You will notice once you grow out of it.

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