Live in Canada and plan to move to a new city or province? You’re not alone. Statistics Canada reports that more people are leaving the country’s largest urban hubs like Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal. Personal health, the ability to work remotely, and rising housing costs are some of the biggest factors behind this wave. Of course, if you want to live in Canada but don’t want to veer too far from city life, these urban centres still have some affordable alternatives left to uncover. Here’s a closer look at housing prices and other important considerations in our picks for most affordable Canadian cities that still feel like you’re living large (but without the large price tag).
In 2020, an RBC Economics study named Edmonton the most affordable of major Canadian housing markets in the country. And here are just a few more reasons to consider moving to Canada’s Festival City: Alberta is the only province without a provincial sales tax (PST) and continues to have an overall tax advantage compared to other provinces with no payroll tax and no health premium. Offering the chance to enjoy city life without the sky-high prices, the average home price in Edmonton is currently $341,700.
Need some convincing that Calgary would be a great place to call home? It was ranked one of the top 5 most liveable cities in the world by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Index for 10 consecutive years between 2009 and 2019, based on factors such as the quality of health care, education, infrastructure, stability, and culture. And according to the Calgary Herald, more millennials in the 30 to 39 age group are carrying mortgages in Calgary compared to the national average. This is thanks to housing affordability, which allows them to enter the market. And with an average home price of $445,600, you’ll have a lot to celebrate, aside from the world-famous Stampede.
|Q: Which city has the most affordable housing in Canada?
A: When it comes to most affordable Canadian cities to buy a home, St. John’s, NL, is the clear winner. With an average sale price of $307,619, St. John’s surpassed Regina, SK, in 2021.
Another great contender and lovingly known as “The Peg,” Winnipeg hosts the sunniest winter season in Canada with 358 sunshine hours. Known to have one of the most affordable Canadian housing markets, you can expect an average home price of $318,200. And here’s a bonus: If you’re looking for employment, you’ll appreciate the province’s strong economic diversity, which includes, but isn’t limited to, manufacturing, agricultural, technology, and tourism industries.
Whether you’re a first-time homeowner or ready to live your best retired life, Canada’s capital city has many price points and neighbourhoods to choose from. At first glance, the average house price of $645,800 may not sound that affordable — but it’s about 57% that of Toronto, where the average home price is a little more than $1.1 million. As for students planning to attend one of the many local universities or colleges, Numbeo reports you can expect to pay about $1,620 a month for a 1-bedroom apartment in the city centre, or about $1,230 outside the centre.
|Insider Tip: Check out the PODS blog for advice on everything moving and storage — from packing tips to making the most of your new space — and more.
HuffPost named Oshawa, Ontario, one of the five best cities to move to from Toronto. The best part? It’s still close enough for commuters to take the GO Train line to Toronto's Union Station — Canada's busiest, multi-modal transportation hub. The average home price of $870,000 is about $260,000 cheaper than in Toronto, and plenty more options are on the way. In fact, according to the Durham Post, the city issued $364 million in residential construction permits in 2020. Keep in mind, though, the average home price in Oshawa is 38% more than it was a year ago, indicating that people have started to take notice of this special city.
Don’t overlook this great port city within the Golden Horseshoe. Located about an hour from Toronto, Hamilton is undoubtedly more affordable with an average home price of about $864,474. Even with housing prices rising in the past few years, Numbeo reports the overall cost of living in Hamilton is still about 16% lower than in Toronto, taking everything from restaurants to childcare into consideration. With more disposable income like that, you won’t even miss the big city.
|Q: What city in Canada has the lowest cost of living?
A: Sherbrooke, Quebec holds that title, with a cost of living that’s about 16% lower than in Quebec City. And I’m not just talking about groceries — a one-bedroom City Centre apartment in Sherbrooke will cost you 73% less than in Toronto and 37% less than in Quebec City.
Q: What province has the lowest cost of living?
A: Would it surprise you if we said it was Quebec? While not every aspect of life in La Belle Province is the cheapest (I’m looking at you, income taxes), in September 2021, the average sold price for a house in Quebec was about half that of nearby Ontario.
We bet you’re saying to yourself, “Really? Vancouver, affordable?” And while it’s no secret that Vancouver proper is one of Canada’s most expensive cities with an average home price of roughly $1,200,000, there are more affordable areas if you know where to look. New Westminster in Metro Vancouver has an average home sale price of almost half the city-wide average at $752,000, for example. And it’s just a 35-minute drive from Downtown Vancouver. Not to mention, this small suburb with under 100,000 residents is totally walkable, saving you plenty in gas and transit costs.
Found your dream city? Don’t sweat the logistics of your big move. Load up a PODS container in your own driveway and on your own time. Then, just let PODS know when it’s ready to roll. Doesn’t matter if your new home is across the country — or just across the way.
It may not be cheap per se, but the cost of living in Montreal is considerably more affordable compared to other capital cities like Vancouver and Toronto. Despite the fact that the average house price in Montreal increased 21% from October 2020 to October 2021, at $506,800, it’s still relatively low. And if you’re moving with young kids in tow, you’ll really appreciate Quebec’s subsidized daycare system, which works out to less than $10 a day.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
If you’ve always dreamed of living or retiring in the Maritimes, Halifax brings that East Coast-style without breaking the bank. Although the cost of living is comparable to the rest of Canada, housing prices come in a wide range from about $150,000 to several million. However, the average house price is just $485,642. For a capital city, that’s pretty tough to beat. Oh, and if you need even more incentive to become a Haligonian, it was named one of the friendliest communities in Canada by Expedia in 2018.
A silver lining to come out of all the struggles brought on by the pandemic is the wider acceptance of remote work. Along with that comes the opportunity for all sorts of people to live where they truly want to live. If you’re considering moving to one of Canada’s major metro areas — you may want to check out the PODS ultimate moving checklist, as it’s never too soon to start preparing.
- Average house price in Vancouver (as of Oct. 2021) - The Canadian Magazine of Immigration
- Average house price in Calgary (as of Oct. 2021) - The Canadian Magazine of Immigration
- Average house price in Edmonton (as of Oct. 2021) - The Canadian Magazine of Immigration
- Average house price in Winnipeg (as of Oct. 2021) - The Canadian Magazine of Immigration
- Average house price in Montreal (as of Oct. 2021) - The Canadian Magazine of Immigration
- Average house price in Hamilton (as of Oct. 2021) - Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington
- Average house price in Halifax (as of Oct. 2021) - The Canadian Magazine of Immigration
- Average house price in Ottawa (as of Oct. 2021) - The Canadian Magazine of Immigration
- Average house price in Toronto (as of Oct. 2021) - The Canadian Magazine of Immigration
- Average home sale price in Oshawa (Oct. 31 - Nov. 28, 2021) - Zolo
- Average home sale price in New Westminster (Oct. 31 - Nov. 28, 2021) - Zolo
- Winnipeg “sunniest winter season” in Canada - Travel Manitoba
Talar Sakarya is a freelance writer based in Toronto. Eternally curious and restless, she loves to travel and ranks Italy, Ireland, and Indonesia as her top three favourite destinations.