If the crisis of the last months has proven anything, Canadians love their neighbourhoods
Local pride will be more important than ever in restoring liveability
While Canadians from coast to coast to coast isolate themselves from the many local enjoyments they derived from their neighbourhoods prior to COVID-19, their genuine love for their local community offers many glimmers of hope in the months ahead. In its latest report, RE/MAX explores some of Canada’s best places to live, what makes them so.
According to a Leger survey conducted on behalf of RE/MAX prior to the outbreak, 82 per cent of Canadians say they would sacrifice at least one desirable attribute in order to live in the neighbourhood they believe meets their liveability “must-haves” and 90 per cent of Canadians love the neighbourhoods they live in.
Liveability is about quality of life at a local level. A neighbourhood’s dynamism, or lack thereof, involves a delicate convergence between independent small businesses, public institutions, arts and culture, green spaces and housing, to name a few. The COVID-19 tragedy will impact neighbourhood ecosystems differently across the country, just as the virus itself has. Yet, civic/local pride has been proliferating throughout this crisis in inspiring ways, giving Canadians hope that micro-economies, including real estate, have the resilience to be restored in the near and mid-term.
“For the benefit of local small businesses and the capacity of residents to restore a high quality of life, or liveability, to their respective communities, the degree of local pride should give us all optimism,” says Christopher Alexander, Executive Vice President and Regional Director, RE/MAX of Ontario-Atlantic Canada. “We have to remind ourselves that this underlying pride and the remarkable local relief efforts in aid of small businesses are ultimately what we believe will help our neighbourhoods return to the dynamism we have all come to highly appreciate, and I’m confident we’ll be successful.”
Alexander adds, “While we’ve seen transactions across the country drop considerably in the last six weeks, I am hopeful that housing prices and demand will remain steady with the help of local resilience and local activity in the months ahead.”
The 2020 RE/MAX Liveability Report explores the qualities that give each homeowner the true satisfaction of living in their neighbourhood, such as access to green spaces or restaurants and entertainment. According to the report, 91 per cent of Canadians have at least one important liveability factor that’s very important to them when it comes to the neighbourhood they live in now or would like to live in, in the future.
Not surprisingly, housing affordability came in at the top at 61 per cent, followed by:
- Walkability (37 per cent)
- Proximity to work (34 per cent)
- Low density neighbourhoods (30 per cent)
- Proximity to transit (30 per cent)
- Access to green spaces/dog parks (30 per cent)
With affordability as the top liveability criteria for Canadians, this lowered the overall liveability score for neighbourhoods in hot markets such as Vancouver and Toronto, despite both having high liveability rankings in other categories.
Canadian homebuyer lifestyles were also considered in determining the best neighbourhoods for their specific needs and tastes, based on a specific set of liveability factors. Location scores provided by Local Logic, a Montreal-based data analytics company who partnered with RE/MAX for this report, were leveraged to determine the top neighbourhoods in Canada for each lifestyle based on the liveability factors that Canadians deem most important to them.
Best Places to Live in Canada
City lovers, both with and without children, enjoy liveability criteria such as proximity to transit, access to green spaces and parks, proximity to good schools and neighbourhood vibrancy (access to art and culture). According to data from Local Logic, various neighbourhoods in Toronto, Calgary and Winnipeg best suit their overall needs. Neighbourhoods such as Old Town Toronto, Beltline in Calgary and Central Park in Winnipeg are ideal for city lovers.
Winnipeg and Edmonton both rank high for suburban families and move-up buyers who tend to look for low density neighbourhoods, access to green spaces, proximity to transit and affordability. For luxury seekers looking for proximity to restaurants and bars, vibrancy and access to green spaces, regions such as Vancouver and Toronto rank high. Top neighbourhoods in Toronto include West Don Lands and City Place, with West End and the Downtown area of Vancouver ranking high in the west.
When it comes to retirees, neighbourhoods in Edmonton and Halifax rank high for their respective vibrancy, access to green spaces and walking paths, proximity to health care or pharmacies, and quietness. Mill Woods Park in Edmonton and Melville Cove in Halifax are among the top neighbourhoods in Canada for retirees.
For buyers who are looking elsewhere because they are priced out of major cities and want an affordable compromise, Winnipeg and Edmonton are top regions for affordability. In Ontario, those looking for an affordable compromise can look to regions like Ottawa, Windsor and Durham.
“All Canadian homebuyers have their own needs and wants,” says Vincent Charles-Hodder, co-founder and CEO of Local Logic. “Using location score technology makes the location hunt much easier, helping Canadians find the perfect neighbourhood to suit their liveability must-haves.”
According to data from Local Logic, cities like Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg rank high for liveability; however, across Canada, there are neighbourhoods to suit a variety of lifestyles and liveability factors.
“Canada’s neighbourhoods are rich in liveability,” says Elton Ash, Regional Executive Vice President, RE/MAX of Western Canada. “Given the current situation, Canadians are craving access to their tight-knit communities and various neighbourhood features that contribute to their quality of life. I’m hopeful that our communities will soon bounce back and liveability, as well as the real estate market, will be restored.”
RE/MAX brokers were also asked to evaluate their city’s neighbourhoods on a set of liveability criteria, including availability of public transit, walkability and housing supply, among other factors. While Toronto and Vancouver both rank low for various lifestyles due to lack of affordability, both cities are still home to many liveable neighbourhoods such as Trinity Bellwoods, the Junction and Corktown in Toronto, and Kitsilano, Main Street and Yaletown in Vancouver. In Alberta, Calgary and Edmonton rank as the top most-liveable cities – many neighbourhoods in each city had high location scores according to Local Logic, and liveability is expected to improve in each region with more forward-thinking city planning in the years ahead.
Other Canadian cities examined include Ottawa, with neighbourhoods such as Centretown and Lower Town scoring high for city lovers. In Victoria, the most up-and-coming neighbourhoods are also some of the most affordable in the region, including Colwood and Langford. Winnipeg also ranks as one of the most liveable cities in Canada, thanks to neighbourhoods like Bridgwater Forest, Charleswood, and Devonshire Park. All have access to green spaces and close proximity to retail.
Regional Liveability & Housing Market Insights
Despite the current state of the pandemic and Canadians continuing to practice physical distancing, the effort to restore liveability and a sense of community is still prominent. Neighbourhoods across the country show appreciation for front-line workers by clapping and banging pots at 7:30 p.m. on a daily basis. Positivity and solidarity are shown through rainbows in the window and chalk art. In an effort to support local restaurants, Canadian restauranteurs and chefs have backed an initiative called “Take out Wednesdays.” These neighbourhood initiatives, intended to spread positivity, only prove that Canadians love and have pride in where they live.
2020 Liveability Report Survey
- Nine in 10 (91 per cent) say there is at least one good factor that is important to them in the neighbourhood they live in or wish to live in
- 61 per cent ranked affordability
- 37 per cent ranked easily walkable
- 34 per cent ranked proximity to work
- Most respondents say they like their quality of life and liveability in the neighbourhood they currently live in (90 per cent)
- 62 per cent say they like it a lot
- Eight in 10 (82 per cent) would make at least one sacrifice to live in the neighbourhood that meets their liveability “must-haves”
- 30 per cent would sacrifice dog parks
- 29 per cent would sacrifice arts and culture
- 26 per cent would sacrifice property size
- 26 per cent would sacrifice proximity to parking options (carpool lots, parking garages)
- Seven in 10 (72 per cent) would look on the internet (i.e. Google search) when looking for information about new neighbourhoods they are interested in moving to
- 39 per cent would ask a real estate agent
- 38 per cent would go by word of mouth
- 15 per cent would rely on news and market trends reported in the media
Canadians love where they live; RE/MAX Report explores some of the best places to live in Canada
- 89 per cent of Canadians would recommend their neighbourhoods to others
- Major Canadian cities are a beacon for liveability
Canadians genuinely celebrate the liveability factors — the qualities that give each homeowner the true satisfaction of his/her home within the context of a neighbourhood — when it comes to choosing a property to buy and live in. In fact, 89 per cent of Canadians would recommend their neighbourhood to others according to a recent RE/MAX survey conducted by Leger.
The latest RE/MAX report examined a variety of quality of life factors and how they impact Canadians’ home-buying decisions.
“Housing is often a contentious topic in Canada, with affordability and inventory being persistent problems from coast to coast,” says Christopher Alexander, Executive Vice President, RE/MAX of Ontario-Atlantic Canada. “However, when buyers are looking for a home, the search begins at the neighbourhood level. And the good news is that Canadians have lots of choice when it comes to ‘liveable’ cities and neighbourhoods.”
Six in 10 Canadians put easy access to shopping, dining and green spaces at the top of their liveability criteria. Proximity to public transit (36 per cent), work (30 per cent) and to preferred schools (18 per cent), as well as cultural and community centres (18 per cent) fall out of the top five neighbourhood wants and expectations.
The proximity and availability of these liveability factors is so important that Canadians spend more than two-thirds of their time in their own neighbourhood. This rate is higher among Baby Boomers compared to Gen Z, Millennial and Gen X Canadians.
“While price and value are always top of mind for buyers, there are some aspects about a home that you can’t change,” says Alexander. “These liveability factors are what make your home more than just the place you live. They are at the heart of the Canadian experience, especially when you consider the survey results.”
RE/MAX brokers were also asked to tap into their neighbourhood expertise and rate their city on each liveability factor.
In the west, Calgary ranked high in seven out of 11 categories, including offering good access to employment opportunities, population growth, housing supply, housing affordability and easy access to bike lanes and/or walking paths. Confederation and Nose Hill Park are two of the most popular parks in the city and the Rotary Mattamy Greenway is the cycling equivalent to the ring road. Inglewood, Hillhurst and Charleswood rank as the top three all-around liveable neighbourhoods. Edmonton also ranked high in access to employment opportunities, number of top rated/preferred schools and easy access to bike lanes and/or walking paths.
“Despite reports of slowing economic conditions and a relatively flat real estate market in Alberta, Calgary and Edmonton shine as beacons of liveability,” says Elton Ash, Regional Executive Vice President, RE/MAX of Western Canada. “This is a promising sign for any buyers considering a purchase in either city as they continue to develop as liveable cities in their own right.”
Toronto ranked medium for access to green spaces and parks but high for availability of big and small retail stores, population growth and access to healthcare facilities. The neighbourhoods that rated highest for access to green space and parks – Rosedale, Leaside and The Beaches – are also the most expensive. Conversely, Toronto’s most affordable neighbourhoods include parts of Scarborough and East York.
Vancouver ranked medium for availability of big and small retail stores, population growth and housing supply. However, it ranked high in availability of public transit, where the Skytrain and bus system prove exceptional; and walkability, especially in Yaletown. Main, West End and Kerrisdale are the top three all-around liveable neighbourhoods in Vancouver while Mount Pleasant, Downtown and Renfrew-Collingwood are the most affordable.
Other regions include Ottawa, where The Glebe neighbourhood is the best for walkability and public transit; Halifax, where Clayton park boasted high inventory; Hamilton, where Beasley was best for affordability; Winnipeg, where Transcona is a hidden gem neighbourhood; Saskatoon, where Nutana is the all-around best neighbourhood for liveability; and Nanaimo, where Central Nanaimo is best for affordability.
“Liveability encompasses the many intangibles when buying and selling a home that an algorithm will never sufficiently capture. You need word of mouth and the on-the-ground expertise of a Realtor who has genuine local knowledge like few others,” adds Ash.