Best Place To Live In Canada? Residents Say It’s Their Own Neighbourhood

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 07 July 2020 05:00

Every year various publications come out with controversial lists that claim to rank the best places to live in Canada. For example, a Maclean’s feature in 2019 picked Burlington, Ont. as the best, based on a combination of wealth and economy, housing affordability, population growth, taxes, commute, crime, weather, access to health care, amenities and culture.

A similar MoneySense magazine article picked Oakville, which is next door to Burlington, as the best. Earlier this year IMMIgroup, a Canadian immigration consulting firm in Toronto, chose Richmond, B.C. as the best city to settle in as a new immigrant to Canada.

But according to Statistics Canada, most Canadians don’t mind that they don’t live in Burlington or Oakville or Richmond. In fact, they’re pretty happy in their own neighbourhoods.

The 2018 Canadian Housing Survey found that almost nine out of 10 Canadian households say they are satisfied or very satisfied with their neighbourhoods. The national average of satisfied or very satisfied households was 85.6 per cent. Those most satisfied were in Quebec (92.5 per cent) and Montreal, which were above the national average. Scoring below the national average, but still more than 80 per cent, were Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo, Ottawa-Gatineau, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto.

It seems the smaller the neighbourhood, the more satisfied the residents. Rural households were more satisfied with the neighbourhood than those who live in small, medium or large urban population centres. Generally, households in neighbourhoods with a low population density were more satisfied with their neighbourhood than those who live in neighbourhoods with a high population density, even within cities, says Statistics Canada’s Jeannine Claveau.

There are negative aspects to some neighbourhoods. The study found that 13.7 per cent of respondents said they felt unsafe walking around after dark. Even so, 62 per cent of these households still indicated that they were satisfied with their neighbourhoods.

Other negatives about their neighbourhoods included people using or selling drugs (seven per cent) and garbage or litter lying around (five per cent). Complaints ranking at less than four per cent included people being drunk or rowdy in public places; vandalism, graffiti or other damage to property or vehicles; smog or air pollution; noisy neighbours or loud parties; people hanging around on the streets; people attacked because of skin colour, ethnicity or religion; and abandoned buildings.

Claveau says that in general, “owner households have a higher neighbourhood satisfaction rate (87.9 per cent) than renters (80.4 per cent). Renters in social and affordable housing have a lower neighbourhood satisfaction rate than other renters.”

People aged 25 to 34 are less satisfied (83.4 per cent) than those 75 and older (91.3 per cent).

About 80.8 per cent of visible minorities are in a household that is satisfied with the neighbourhood, compared to 87.6 per cent of people who are not part of a visible minority, she says.

When Canadians were asked if they are satisfied with the home they are living in, there’s a big difference between owners and renters. Owners who live in detached, semi-detached and row houses are about 10 percentage points more likely to be satisfied than renters in the same kinds of housing. Those who own their low-rise or high-rise apartment units registered housing satisfaction 16 percentage points higher than renters.

“Satisfaction rates differ by 25 percentage points between households in owned, detached houses and those in rented high-rise apartments – the two groups among whom housing satisfaction differs the most,” says the Statistics Canada report.

“Closer scrutiny is warranted given the magnitude of these differences. The extent to which the relationship between housing tenure, dwelling type and housing satisfaction vary between socio-economic groups is one issue requiring further analysis,” it says.

There has been a lot of talk about how the COVID-19 pandemic will put pressure on homeowners with mortgages to pay, due to job losses. Although many mortgage payments have been deferred by lenders, they still must eventually be paid.

The Statistics Canada survey, conducted long before the pandemic, found that there was only a three-per-cent difference in housing satisfaction between those detached housing owners who have a mortgage and those who don’t. However, it was 10 percentage points between multi-housing unit owners with a mortgage and those without. If the survey was conducted today, that gap would likely be much higher.

Why do we like our houses?

Because they offer safety and security was the No. 1 answer, cited by 88 per cent of respondents. Households also expressed satisfaction with the number of bedrooms, overall space and condition of their building. Seventy per cent said they were satisfied with their home’s affordability.

Older Canadians tend to be more satisfied with their housing than younger people. Affordability is a big issue here, with just 60 per cent of those aged 15-34 satisfied with the affordability of their home, compared to 81 per cent of those aged 65 and older. 

The report says that among households that are satisfied or very satisfied with their home, nine per cent said they planned to move within two years, and 16 per cent said they didn’t know if they would move.

Among those who were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied, 27 per cent intended to move within two years and 31 per cent said they were not sure if they would move.

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Jim Adair

Jim Adair has been writing about Canadian real estate, home building and renovation issues for more than 40 years. He is the former editor of Canada’s leading trade magazine for real estate professionals, as well as several home building, décor and renovation titles. You can contact him at [email protected]

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