Since I’ve moved, I’m not really as shy about sharing where I live anymore. In fact, I’m actually pretty excited to announce that I now live in Oshawa, Ontario.
Oshawa is a city of about 150 000 and is pretty much as far east in the GTA as you’re going to get, situated between my hometown of Whitby and Clarington on the other side. If anyone remembers Jann Arden’s gaff a few months ago, Oshawa is the city she called “the middle of nowhere”. The economy is mainly supported by the GM plant in the south end of town, but they keep closing auto lines and laying people off. The city has the highest teen pregnancy rate, violent crime rate, and prostitution rate in Durham Region. The poverty rate in the south end is through the roof and in the areas surrounding downtown it’s almost guaranteed that there is a drug dealer on every street. It’s also home to Durham College (my school) and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in the Northern part of the city, which is a lot nicer and nicknamed “Poshawa”.
I was born in Stouffville (north of Toronto), but my parents moved to Whitby when I was 2. I spent 19 years in Whitby, if you count the year I lived in Waterloo going home every couple of weekends. Frankly, growing up in Whitby caused me to become a sheltered little brat. When I went into Oshawa, it was only to go to their mall because ours sucked. When I started driving, I’d lock my doors every time I drove through the city. So when M and I started our apartment search in May, we were skeptical of the dirty Shwa. When M got nowhere finding an apartment in my hometown and suggested we at least look east, it took a little convincing. However, now that I’ve been in Oshawa a couple of weeks, I have to admit that I love it. The cost of living is a bit cheaper, we picked a quiet area with a lot of seniors, and the rent is dirt cheap at $875 a month. The same apartment in Whitby would cost around $1200, just because of the location. As a plus, there have been no problems since I moved in (beyond coming home to see 9 cruisers, K9 and SWAT sitting outside my building, but that’s a hilarious story for another time).
Anyone from the GTA reading this is most likely laughing at me, but it’s true. I’m really proud to live here. There are some great people here, even if the city is a bit rough around the edges. Honestly, in certain lighting, I’d almost call Oshawa beautiful.
This pleasant surprise really made me think about the sacrifices people make for location. As far as Toronto is concerned, people try to stay out of Scarborough if possible while looking for a home. Depending on the area, you’re spending an extra $200 to $500 a month to live elsewhere in the city. Toronto is an extreme example as there’s been an increase in gang related violence in the past couple of months, but I’ve noticed that many people pass up housing opportunities based on an area’s reputation- even if the area really isn’t that bad. At the same time, others really don’t care where they live as long as they get the best price. I’m somewhere in the middle; I’m willing to move into a slightly less desirable area to cut my rent expense. At the same time I’m willing to spend enough money to not end up living at Jane and Finch. It’s a fine balance between being a miser and being too paranoid, and I think I mastered it the first time out on my own.
So out of curiosity, now I’m asking you: do you insist on spending more money to be in a better neighbourhood, or are you happier when your rent is as low as possible?