It hasn’t been easy for Canadians to find affordable housing. In fact, according to some reports, Canadian home prices are some of the highest globally. Given the dire statistics for would-be homeowners, Macleans set out on a mission to find the best communities in Canada that also offered affordable housing in its Best Communities In Canada 2019 report.
To create their list, Macleans partnered with Environics to gather data on 415 communities cross-country to track a variety of factors they consider relevant to the average person. In addition to affordability, Macleans weighed factors such as taxes, commute, crime, weather, access to health care, amenities and culture.
When it comes to affordable housing, Salmon Arm, B.C. tops the list. Just east of Kamloops and nestled between the Shuswap Lake and mountain ranges, the average home in Salmon Arm can cost as little as $429,000. That’s barely the cost of a 600 sq. ft., one-bedroom condo unit in Toronto.
Of the top five communities with the most affordable housing prices, two were in Ontario (Tecumseh and Russell), and two were in B.C. (Salmon Arm and Terrace). It’s an interesting phenomenon considering that Ontario and B.C. are the two provinces with the most expensive housing prices.
The fifth spot for the best and most affordable community was in Saskatchewan (Weyburn). The 10th-largest city in Saskatchewan, Weyburn sits an hour southeast of Regina, making for an easy commute. With a population of approximately 11,000, the picturesque city is steeped in history and culture. Weyburn was also named “the best place to live in the Prairies” by Money Sense magazine two years in a row and is called “The Opportunity City” because of its high employment levels.
Though Salmon Arm came in first place for affordability, the community only ranked sixth overall. According to Mcleans' full ranking, Burlington, Ont. (a city which didn’t even make the top 100 communities with affordable housing!) is the best community in Canada. The GTA community secured the top spot by ranking in the top 25 per cent in six of the 10 categories Mcleans measured.
Broadly speaking, one of the biggest trends in finding affordable real estate is to leave the city and prioritize lifestyle. But just how far out of the city you have to go is still up for debate. A few of the most affordable communities in Canada sit within a short commute to a major city centre. But others are still quite far. Terrace, B.C., for example, is a vibrant community in and of itself, however, it’s just over 600 km to Vancouver.
In contrast to this, many of the cities that ranked high on Macleans’ overall best communities list, such as Burlington, Grimsby, and New Tecumseth, do sit on the outskirts of a major city centre. Macleans noted that these communities were strong in population growth and were “supercharged” with local economic activity – yet were also within driving distance of a larger population centre.
Surprisingly, Ottawa ranked third in the overall best community but didn’t even show up on the affordability rankings (which disqualified any city with a listing over $500,000). The current price of an average Ottawa home is approximately $543,814. While Ottawa was eliminated from the affordability list, it’s noteworthy that Kingston, Ont. ranked eighth with an average house price of $436,257.
For those looking to buy an affordable home, the question really becomes whether they can relocate. It’s a personal choice, but Macleans certainly makes the argument that the move is worth it.