Someone in Canada is offering free rent in exchange for keeping their kids alive

Jan 13 2023, 6:31 pm

As already-exorbitant Toronto rent prices climb from “unaffordable” into “literally impossible” territory, priced-out young adults are facing some difficult choices about where and how to live.

Some people are moving back in with their parents, if they were ever able to leave in the first place, while others are sharing bedrooms with strangers just to make ends meet amid a bonafide food price inflation crisis.

Wouldn’t it be cool if people could pay rent with something other than money? Like the ability to change diapers and cook Kraft Dinner?

One local couple has come up with a solution along these lines, offering free rent to someone who will watch their kids and dogs during the day while they’re at work — like an unpaid au pair with fewer qualifications.

free rent markham

A Markham family’s recent ad for an unconventional childcare arrangement speaks to how desperately needed more affordable housing is across the GTA. (Image via

“FREE RENT FOR KEEPING MY CHILDREN FED, CHANGED, AND ALIVE!” screams the headline of an ad posted to Kijiji and Facebook this week by a man who lives in Markham’s Cornell Village.

“Do you work remotely? Would not paying for rent save you money? Come live at the Cheung residence!”

Whoever lands the lease/gig will get their own bedroom, their own washroom, their own parking spot, free unlimited high-speed internet with all the fixings (Netflix, HBO, Prime, Disney+, Apple TV+, YouTube Premium), as well as shared access to a home gym, washer, dryer, and kitchen.

In exchange, the selected tenant will be required to “hang out” with a two-year-old child and a 10-month-old baby while the landlords are at work.

Duties included as listed as follows:

– “Distracting them by throwing on Moana or Baby Shark for the 15,000th time!”
– “Changing and feeding them when needed!”
– “Walking our two dogs in the morning!”
– “Feeding our two dogs in the afternoon!”

free rent markham

The family has two very large, very cute dogs that their tenant will be expected to walk and feed. (Image via

According to the ad, the tenant will have weekends off, and their weekday “shifts” with the kids will end as soon as their parents come home from work.

As an added incentive, the family notes that it has a PlayStation, an Xbox, a Nintendo Switch, an old-school arcade cabinet and a full library of comic books. Photos included with the ad suggest that they’re big fans of the Star Wars, Pokemon and Ghostbusters franchises.

To be perfectly honest, they seem like really fun people with cute kids and two big, beautiful dogs.

free rent markham

The Cheung family’s home in Markham, Ontario, decorated for the holidays. (Image via

Playing the part of unpaid live-in babysitter may not be for everyone, but for someone who can no longer afford their own place in Toronto and must choose between moving back in with their suburban parents, holing up in an unsafe dive, or sharing a room with two other adults… moving into their own bedroom in a nice family’s house could seem like a good option.

I’m expecting this ad will get quite a bit of attention as news of its existence spreads over the weekend, so competition might be fierce. Anyone hoping to move into the Markham family of six (dogs included) will be expected to provide references, proof of employment, employment history, a police background check and an in-person or video interview.

Lauren O'NeilLauren O'Neil

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