Anti-home ownership retirement plan fuels debate in Montreal

A couple in their 30s who managed to retire after skipping a pricey Toronto mortgage has Montrealers wondering: should I do the same?

Couples, families, single parents tell us what made them decide to buy or rent

A Toronto couple made waves for advocating against home ownership, calling it a 'cult' and facing a national backlash. (CBC)

A couple in their 30s who managed to retire after skipping a pricey Toronto mortgage has Montrealers wondering: should I do the same? 

Computer engineers Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung say they lived on a shoestring budget while putting money away for a mortgage, but even with $500,000 to spend, Toronto's housing market discouraged them from buying.

Over several years the couple invested and grew their savings to $1 million. 

Their website, Millennial Revolution, offers advice to others who want to do the same.

Some people were inspired by the original CBC story, but it also generated many hateful comments.

"Nobody should ever follow this advice. Complete garbage," one reader wrote in the story's comments section.

"Ahhh … the good old shallow selfie generation telling us how to live our lives," commented another person.

Shen said she expected they would face criticism.

When they sat down for an interview with CBC News, Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung said they were prepared for hateful online comments. (CBC)

"I'm actually not surprised by all the hate that we're getting, even my parents were upset I didn't want to buy a house," Shen told CBC Montreal's Radio Noon in a phone interview from Kyoto, Japan.

"I called home ownership a bit of a 'cult' and the backlash we're getting over that shows just how much of a cult it is," Leung added. "Anyone who tries to question it gets burned at the stake."

A lifestyle choice

But even those whose livelihoods depend on the buying and selling of homes are inclined to agree with parts of Shen and Leung's argument.

Becoming a homeowner is no longer a rite of passage everyone has to go through; it is a lifestyle choice which may not suit couples who don't want children, said Georges Gaucher, a real estate agent with Royal LePage Ville-Marie.

"You're buying for your family," Gaucher told Radio Noon

Home ownership may also appeal to people who need an incentive to save money, or as an investment for those who have already managed to save up some cash.  

When you take a long-term perspective, Gaucher said, a person will always be able to make money on real estate.

"You can buy a house and over five to ten years you can get really good returns," he said.

Kristy Shen and husband, Bryce Leung travelling in Thailand in February. After retirement, the 30-something couple travels the world. (Kristy Shen/Bryce Leung)

Generational divide 

The issue of home ownership proved popular, if controversial, for many CBC Montreal listeners. As they responded to Shen and Leung's advice, it emerged that attitudes diverged along generational lines. 

"A lot of people need to question the idea of buying a house as a right of passage into adulthood," said one younger caller to Radio Noon.  

"Our generation needs to question that a lot."

Some older callers, with children of their own, portrayed home ownership as a gift to their children. 

"I buy a house and make ends meet and my kids can be attached to that property," one father from Pointe-Claire said.

with files from CBC Montreal’s Radio Noon and Sophia Harris


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