Ontario has long been a popular destination for Canadians who are looking to move to new locales, and that was certainly the case over the course of 2017. Indeed, 21 of the 25 cities experiencing the biggest growth are in the Heartland Province.
Ottawa topped the list of cities across Canada where people moved last year, supplanting Kamloops, British Columbia, as the biggest relocation destination, according to the latest data from U-Haul, based on one-way truck rentals both leaving and entering various cities across the country. More than half of all one-way U-Haul traffic in Ottawa was from people arriving there for a move, up 7 percent from last year, while departures increased just 5 percent.
Other Ontario cities on the list
Furthermore, Belleville, Ontario, rose to No. 2 on the list, the U-Haul data showed. In fact, all of the top 14 spots on the 2017 list were in Ontario, including North Bay, Parry Sound, Kingston and more. The list features only four cities in other provinces: Chilliwack, British Columbia (No. 15); Sherbrooke, Quebec (No. 22); and both Grande Prairie (No. 18) and Lethbridge (No. 25), Alberta.
"Ontario has a lot to offer," said Ryan Pearson, U-Haul Company of Central Canada president. "The cities range from peaceful to bustling, and the province is known for its diversity. Plus, Ontario has some of the milder weather in Canada, so people tend to flock here."
A clear cause-and-effect
As a result of all the interest in moving to Ontario, it should come as no surprise that home prices in a number of its cities are on the rise, according to Royal LePage. For instance, the aggregate home price in the metro area of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge, Ontario, spiked in the fourth quarter of 2017, rising 24.6 percent on an annual basis to more than $490,000.
Keith Church, broker of record for Royal LePage Grand Valley Realty, noted that this very much constitutes a seller's market for homeowners, due mainly to low inventory seen since the start of the spring buying season last year. Demand for property is up almost uniformly across North America, and while the Kitchener/Waterloo/Cambridge region isn't seeing as much migration from Toronto, there's still plenty to entice would-be buyers in the market these days.
As a consequence, the local market significantly outpaced home price increases in Canada over the same period, as those only rose 10.8 percent, the report said. However, some remain concerned that even these lower national price increases are largely unsustainable, because they're driven so much by sharper jumps in British Columbia and Ontario.
Cities trying to accommodate demand
With so many people now looking to move to Ontario, its largest city is trying to find ways to both attract new residents and make lives easier. Toronto is now investing $3.2 billion into a subway extension to push the TTC outside the border of the city of Toronto itself. This project has been long-delayed, and quite controversial, after first being planned to open in 2015. Now, the extension could be ready to go by 2020, and will likely be able to accommodate 24 million new passengers each year.
Most notably, the subway line will serve York University, where as many as 27,000 people per day are expected to board the TTC at just one of the school's two stops on campus, the report said. University officials believe this will cut commute times for students by as much as half, as the trip from the end of the line at Vaughan Metropolitan Center in Vaughan, Ontario, to downtown Toronto is expected to take just 42 minutes.
A province working for working families
In addition, Ontario recently had a law - known as the Fair Workplace and Better Jobs Act - go into effect at the start of 2018, with an eye toward significantly increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour by next year, according to the Kenora Daily Miner and News. In addition, many young people will be able to start receiving free prescriptions for thousands of necessary medications.
This is all being done with an eye toward helping lower-income Ontario residents, the report said. The poverty line in the province as a whole is set at more or less the same amount earned working a minimum-wage job 35 hours per week (a little more than $19,400 annually), but with a $14 minimum wage this year, and rising to $15 next year, that will bring those workers to $25,000 per year. Nonetheless, the average worker in Ontario currently earns $60,000.
As more is being done to both make and keep Ontario's cities as a prime destinations for Canadians and everyone else, it's important for people to carefully evaluate their finances and make the best possible decisions about where and how to live, especially as the housing market continues to shift.