Waterloo Region’s red-hot housing market hits close to home for Wilmot Township Mayor Natasha Salonen.
Despite earning around $90,000 a year between her work as mayor, regional councillor and with the local electric utility, she says she can’t afford to buy a home in the municipality she leads.
“I do live at home with my parents,” Salonen says. “Living in this region is really not attainable for a young professional who has university debt and I know I’m certainly not alone in that.”
Located just outside Kitchener-Waterloo, Wilmot Township has a population of around 22,000. According to the Waterloo Region Association of Realtors, the average home in Wilmot sold for $916,167 last month.
While it’s worth noting Salonen is just 28 years old, her situation is still unique among her political peers.
“I realized around the table, I was the only one who doesn’t own a house out of my mayoral colleagues in the region,” she says.
Salonen become the first female mayor of Wilmot in October 2022 when she received over 60 per cent of the vote.
She is still paying off her student loans after graduating from England’s University of Oxford in 2019, and says that’s contributing to why she can’t afford a home.
Many of her friends in their late 20s are unable to afford homes in Wilmot too, she says.
“I mean, one just went on the market. I don’t know what it sold at, but it was listed for $798,900 and about 1,000 square feet.”
LOCAL REALTOR WEIGHS IN
Realtor Shawn Ramautor with Royal LePage Wolle Realty says the situation is not surprising – even for a mayor.
“Unfortunately now this seems to be par for the course,” Ramautor says. “What we’re seeing right now is first-time homebuyers especially are really being affected. And there’s a huge barrier to entering the market right now.”
He says that means some parents are seeing their kids move back home to save up until they can buy their own place.
“Right now we’re seeing a lot of multi-generation families living in the same home because of the barriers to entry,” Ramautor explains.
Salonen supports last month’s announcement to build 10,000 affordable and attainable homes in the region by 2030.
Although, she recognizes there are people in much worse situations than hers and says this project isn’t necessarily aimed at young professionals earning similar wages as herself.
She hopes municipal leaders can get together to create opportunities for that demographic too.
Meanwhile, Salonen says above all else, the situation is helping her relate to the people she represents – perhaps in a way she never imagined.