Apart from Halifax, NS, affordability is the most important factor for Atlantic Canada home buyers when choosing a neighbourhood. This is due to ongoing pressures of housing demand, as well as economic circumstances in St. John’s, NL, Charlottetown, PEI and Moncton, NB – albeit, overall, the region continues to offer pockets affordability, especially as compared to Ontario and Western Canada. Due to the large distances between homes and everyday activities in Atlantic Canada, proximity to schools (in 100 per cent of regions), public transit (in 50 per cent of regions), green space (in 50 per cent of regions), childcare and grocery stores (in 25 per cent of regions) are still a priority for prospective buyers. As such, residents in these areas have to rely on vehicles as the primary mode of transportation, making drive-ability between neighbourhoods and everyday necessities a strong consideration for prospective buyers. In general, these priorities are not anticipated to change significantly.

As Canada continues to grapple with a housing crisis rooted in a persistent inventory shortage, RE/MAX Canada explores possible solutions through the launch of its latest report, 15-Minute Neighbourhood: Lessons for Small Communities. The report, named for an urban planning concept that puts daily necessities within a 15-minute walk, bicycle or transit ride from home, attempts to highlight this pragmatic approach to building the right supply of housing for the greatest number of Canadians, in a way that delivers maximum liveability and affordability – particularly in smaller municipalities that are experiencing rapid growth.

Quality of life is considered to be very satisfactory in Atlantic Canada which can be attributed to the availability of family-friendly amenities, its relative affordability as compared to other provinces and proximity to parks, rivers, oceans and the like. One of the most common pain points for residents is the long distances they must travel to their workplace. Thus, closing this gap with neighbourhoods that offer greater proximity to work or improvements to public transportation (something that is already underway in cities like Charlottetown, PEI) would be key drivers to boosting liveability. Due to the over-reliance on cars that are needed because of the infrastructure of these regions, implementing neighbourhoods that are a 15-minute drive to amenities would be more feasible and a stepping-stone to achieving the ideal 15-minute concept where walking, biking and public transportation are just as reliable as the car.

Regional Insights:

In the 15-Minute Neighbourhoods Report, RE/MAX Canada examined a selection of large and small markets from coast to coast, with RE/MAX brokers and agents asked to share their insights into local liveability. Here’s what they had to say.

Affordability, proximity to preferred schools, driveability, proximity to work and public transit are top priorities for Canadians in Moncton, NB. The demand of these elements has shifted significantly and is expected to continue doing so – especially amid ongoing economic fluctuations that have made affordability top of mind. “Buying considerations have shifted significantly towards a focus anchored by affordability,” says Roger LeBlanc, owner of RE/MAX Avante. “We anticipate that this will continue to be the case, especially as buyers adjust to our new mortgage reality. Canadians are looking to stretch their buying power in an environment with very limited inventory. This is creating considerable demand and competition, especially in entry-level price points, where competing offers between $200k-$400k happen regularly.”

Although the Greater Moncton area already captures the spirit of many of the elements within the 15-minute neighbourhood – particularly when it comes to proximity to everyday needs/activities – residents still require at least one vehicle to access certain shops and for their commute to work. Improvements to public transportation, in addition to building urban density through multi-unit projects (which are already underway), and increasing bike lanes/walkability, will bring Moncton closer to the 15-minute neighbourhood idea.

Quality of life is considered very satisfactory in Moncton. While the economic realities we are facing across Canada are challenging, Greater Moncton residents have reasonable levels of traffic, relatively affordable housing and proximity to parks, rivers, ocean, and lakes, all of which boost liveability significantly. That said, closer proximity to work, additional independently owned retail stores, gyms, and restaurants, as well as proximity to health services, would be welcomed additions to support Moncton residents’ overall quality of life.

The top 3 priorities for homebuyers when selecting a residential neighbourhood:

  1. Affordability – continues to be a top priority for residents in Moncton, especially amid ongoing economic fluctuations that buyers must navigate such as interest rates and the rising cost of living.
  2. Proximity to preferred schools – many parents are motivated to purchase a home that will provide their children with proximity to their preferred schools, over travelling to another.
  3. Easily Driveable – given the large distances between workplaces and certain amenities/shops, residents in Moncton still heavily rely on vehicles to commute, making accessible roads a priority for prospective buyers.

Factors/amenities currently missing that would improve residents’ quality of life:

  1. Proximity to work – for many residents their place of work requires a long commute. This is one of the drawbacks that has prohibited Moncton from fully being a 15-minute neighbourhood.
  2. Proximity to health and medical services – access to health care services within 15-minutes would be welcome in the area, as this is not currently feasible for everyone.
  3. Independently owned retail stores, gyms, bars and restaurants – this would support the local economy and increase a sense of community in the area.

Proximity to locally- owned businesses, greenspaces, and public transportation remain top priorities for homebuyers in Halifax as Generation Y and Z homebuyers look towards urban areas for a balance between work, amenities, and recreation options.

Earlier this year, Halifax cut the provincial budget for bus routes, inhibiting the growth of affordable and accessible transportation is the city. Several ongoing infrastructure projects such as the Burnside-Bedford Highway 107 looks to improve connectivity between the suburbs and the urban centre but does not address the need for equitable and accessible modes of transportation. Halifax residents’ quality of life is currently rated as very satisfactory due to the expansive greenspaces across the region and a connection to local shops, services and amenities. Transportation logistics, specifically around the harbour and bike lanes leaves room for improvement and space to explore more affordable transportation options.

Developments to Halifax’s waterfront are the most ambitious steps the region is taking to revitalize industrial spaces to be more conducive to the province’s main industry, tourism, while making it more appealing to residents who would love water access. With plans for a man-made beach, mixed-use development, and more, this will bring beach access, community gathering, and event spaces to residents of Halifax. While the main purpose is to boost tourism and economic growth in the region, “projects like this will drastically change the experience for residents in Halifax” says Ryan Hartlen, broker, RE/MAX Nova. “With many businesses connected to Halifax’s coast, merging the concept of business and community in one space will transform how residents and tourists enjoy the region without sacrificing either.”

The top 3 priorities for homebuyers when selecting a residential neighbourhood:

  1. Proximity to businesses such as locally own stories, restaurants, bars, and amenities such as gyms – and other services are a priority to find essential products, services, culture and entertainment close to home.
  2. Access to green spaces and/or dog parks – homebuyers in Halifax are interested in greenspaces and dog parks close to home for recreational use, preferring a balance between nature and urban centers throughout the region.

Factors/amenities currently missing that would improve residents’ quality of life:

  1. Proximity to work/access to professional opportunities – Halifax currently lacks a balanced distribution of professional opportunities through the region, with key industries highly developed in specific areas of the city.
  2. Easy access to bike lanes and/or walking paths – like many other car-centric city centres across Canada, Halifax residents currently want more accessible biking and walking lanes to have a climate friendly transportation option that is also affordable compared to cars.

Affordability, proximity to preferred schools, proximity to childcare options and easily driveable commutes are the top priorities buyers are looking for when selecting a residential neighbourhood in Charlottetown, PEI. Post-pandemic, these priorities have not shifted much, and are not expected to change in the short term.

“Prince Edward Island has always been an area wherein proximity is of the utmost importance,” says Mary Jane Webster, Owner, RE/MAX Charlottetown. “Our public transit system is still relatively new and only serves Cornwall, Charlottetown, and Stratford, although ridership has been increasing. We do a robust bus system for school transportation so when younger families are looking to buy, they look to school zones and bus routes.”

Quality of life in Charlottetown is currently described as very satisfactory, which can be attributed to the province’s continued affordability, and recent development projects in nearby Cornwall, which has been investing in new sidewalks, lighting and a more robust transportation system. While Charlottetown and surrounding areas are still in need of more housing inventory, new developments and designs are spacious and offer good options for new residents to the area. Overall, the development of new transit systems in a predominantly rural province has been key to its development, especially when considering the 15-minute neighbourhood concept.  But the concept is in demand from the area’s young professionals who only want to have one car, and a simple commute. This really plays into home sales reflecting more of a lifestyle than an actual structure.

The top priorities for homebuyers when selecting a residential neighbourhood:

  1. Affordability – like many other city centres across the country, affordability is a top consideration and priority for residents looking to enter the housing market.
  2. Modernized transit/bus system – this investment is making the 15-minute neighbourhood more of a tangible reality and welcomed by the city’s younger professional residents

Factors/amenities currently missing that would improve residents’ quality of life:

  • Public Transit – although, a public transportation system was recently introduced, there would still need to be significant improvements, expansion and infrastructure to make it the leading form of transportation in the area. However, ridership progressively increasing to the current system, is a healthy sign of the appetite for this form of transportation

Affordability, proximity to schools, preferred schools, work, independently owned retail stores, gyms, bars and restaurants, childcare options, as well as access to healthcare are top priorities for Canadians in St. John’s, NL.  These “must-haves” have remained the same for the most part – something that is anticipated to remain the same for the foreseeable future. Apart from off-shore oil production and mineral exploration, wind-powered hydrogen production is anticipated to bring a huge economic boom to Newfoundland.

“Although, the ideal is to work towards having a 15-minute neighbourhood inclusive of all forms of transportation, to start, it would be more feasible to introduce the concept as building neighbourhoods that are a 15-minute drive within amenities in St. John’s”, says Jim Burton, owner of RE/MAX Infinity Realty Inc. “This is because the lifestyle of our communities still caters to favouring the car – with that being said, ensuring that amenities are in closer proximity even via auto-mobile will have positive impacts on the liveability of our population, their income and employment – especially thanks to the boom in natural resources that we have available.”

Overall, quality of life in St. John’s is considered to be very satisfactory given the availability of family-friendly amenities that are top of mind for residents looking to expand or grow families in the area.

The top three priorities for homebuyers when selecting a residential neighbourhood:

  1. Affordability – much like many of the regions across the country, affordability trumps all other factors for buyers looking to purchase a home. With that being said, the relative affordability that St. John’s offers residents, compared to the remainder of the country, as well as opportunities in the energy, oil and mining industry, continue to attract Canadians to the area.
  2. Proximity to preferred schools – as a region that is driven by families, access and proximity to schools is a strong factor that residents of St. John consider when choosing a neighbourhood.
  3. Proximity to work – as a city that is flourishing in the oil, energy and mining industry, proximity to the workplace is an important element buyers seek when purchasing a home. Especially, as many have to balance work with family life.

Factors/amenities currently missing that would improve residents’ quality of life:

  1. Proximity to work – at the moment, many residents in St. John’s having to travel long distances via car to access their workplace. Closing the gap in the distance would reduce cost of gas and in turn contribute towards improving affordability.
  2. Proximity to health and medical services – given long distances in the area, additional time and expenses are required for many residents to access health care services.
  3. Proximity to public transit – many people in the Greater St. John’s area (Mount Pearl, CBS and Paradise) have limited access to public transportation, making this a welcome addition to the area.