Home is more than a dwelling…if you’re lucky, it’s also a neighbourhood. I’ve lived in a lot of neighbourhoods over the years, but I’ve never felt the same sense of community that I do now. And I didn’t always feel it here, but I do now. I love my neighbourhood. I love the densely populated, crazy, multi-cultural mix of kids and dogs and families and singles and child-free couples and gays and straights and young and old in this eclectic mix of low-income, non-profit, cooperative and high-end housing. I love all the gardens and the trees and the dog park and the river and my neighbours. I love that I can have three conversations on the way to the corner store. I love the clamor of a gazillion urchins playing an impromptu game of pick-up soccer on the cul-de-sac below my balcony. I love the Chinese shops on Somerset Street and the Italian restaurants on Preston Street. I love that I can walk to work and walk to the Parkdale market and walk pretty much everywhere I want to go.
I love my neighbourhood and I don’t want to leave.
But I cannot afford to buy a house in my neighbourhood. Despite the fact that the child poverty rate is almost 50% in my immediate neighbourhood, homes for sale around here are not at entry-level prices. My next choice would be Mechanicsville, one neighbourhood over to the west. Densely populated but different, with no front lawns and front porches butting up against the sidewalks, and little elbow room between the houses. Mechancsville is proud but poor working-class housing, and some would argue that there’s not even that much pride there. It’s unpretentious living at its best, and it’s still walking distance to downtown. Mechanicsville has character; I could make myself at home there.
But I’ve been looking for six months now, and I might be a little bit late to the Mechanicsville real estate party. There’s just not that much in the <$200K range anymore and I lost one bidding war in Mechanicsville already.
Last night my agent took me to see a place in the Carlington area (MLS: 643193 ). It’s a nice house, clean, hardwood floors, a finished basement, good condition, tastefully painted, 3 bedrooms, a tiny yard, affordable. It’s got a lot going for it. I’m seriously considering it, and my agent says I should move fast if I want this one. I like the house…I just feel weird about living in Carlington. It’s not my neighbourhood. I’d have to take a bus to work. I wouldn’t have a dog park, or a gazillion screaming urchins playing soccer below my balcony. Or a balcony. Or a river.
So here’s a question for all of you: Would you continue to rent in the neighbourhood you love, or would you buy in a neighbourhood that doesn’t feel like home?