The best cities to live in North America are in Canada, but can you

Rankings don’t always focus on the cost of living

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Four of the top five most liveable cities in North America are in Canada, with Calgary ranking first, followed by Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

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That’s according to the Global Liveability Ranking, an annual assessment published by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the Economist’s sister company. The survey ranks 172 cities (previously 140) on their urban quality of life, based on factors such as health care and political stability.

The survey also breaks down their rankings to look at the best cities in regions like North America. Atlanta is our southern neighbor’s #1 city and ranks fifth in North America. Internationally, Calgary ranks fourth, Vancouver fifth and Toronto eighth. The first three international places went to Vienna, Copenhagen and Zurich.

What makes a city worth living in?

More than 30 factors were analyzed in the areas of education, culture, environment, health care, infrastructure and stability. The index’s authors also explained that the top cities were chosen based on how they have recovered from the pandemic, in addition to stability, good infrastructure and services, and enjoyable leisure activities.

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Although Mexico is a North American country, it is not included in EIU’s North American Index.

“Western European and Canadian cities dominate the top of our rankings,” the report said, citing how everyday life in those cities is “almost back to normal” after high COVID-19 vaccination rates were achieved and lockdowns ended.

High-ranking despite the housing shortage?

At the time of publication of our report for the top five Canadian cities for affordable housing and job growth, none of the EIU selections made the list.

While the major urban centers — like Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal — offer the most lucrative jobs and career opportunities, they also have some of the most expensive real estate in the country.

Canadians know this, and some are willing to make sacrifices to find affordable housing.

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A July 20 Leger poll commissioned by RE/MAX found that about 64 percent of Canadians rank moving among the biggest sacrifices they would be willing to make to buy affordable homes.

The online survey surveyed 1,529 Canadians between June 24 and June 26, 2022.

The survey also found that 43 percent said high property prices in their area were a barrier to market entry. Other hurdles include higher cost of living (35 percent); a loss of salary (24 percent); Market volatility (24 percent) and rising interest rates (24 percent).

This explains why the federal government is providing $1.5 billion to expand the Rapid Housing Initiative to create at least 6,000 additional affordable housing units across Canada.

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Is there hope with Calgary and Montreal?

If you look at benchmark home prices, both Calgary and Montreal are significantly cheaper compared to Toronto and Vancouver, where prices for a single-family home start at around a million.

In Montreal, the average selling price for a home reached $576,760 in July, after a six percent annual increase. Desirable single-family homes for Canadian families in Montreal rose 10 percent year-over-year to $550,000, and the median condo price rose 9 percent year-over-year to $392,000.

So what about income? According to Statistics Canada, the median salary in Montreal for 2020 is $49,600. This is below Canada’s national average of $51,300 in 2020.

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Calgary’s benchmark home price hit $581,600 in July, up 13 percent from levels reported last year. Single-family homes in Calgary were up 9 percent year over year in July to about $637,000, and condos were up 6 percent to $275,000.

Calgary’s median income, meanwhile, is above the national average at $58,500 in 2020.

The question of income vs. real estate prices

Vancouver’s guide price for single-family homes is more than $2 million, up 13.4 percent from June 2021. Condo prices in Vancouver have risen 11.4 percent since July of last year to a target price of $755,000.

Since the real estate market in Vancouver is so expensive, you would expect the median income to be higher or even higher than that of Calgary, right?

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Not exactly. According to Statistics Canada, the median income in Vancouver is $52,600, in line with the national average.

For Toronto, the median selling price is about $1.5 million, up 5.3 percent from June 2021 levels. Greater Toronto area single-family home prices in July averaged about $1.4 million, semi-detached homes about $1 million and condos about $719,237.

Toronto’s median income is also not much higher than the national average. In 2020, Torontians earned an average of $52,700.

For many Canadians, seeing their country’s home prices outpace income isn’t groundbreaking news.

While all G7 countries have seen house price-to-income ratios rise over the past year, Canada has

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In the fourth quarter of 2021, the ratio index hit a whopping 141.9, meaning house prices have risen 41.9 percent faster than incomes since 2015, data from the OECD shows. Meanwhile, the US ratio index was 130.5 in the fourth quarter of 2021.

What makes Toronto and Vancouver so expensive?

Last year, Ontario welcomed half of all newcomers to Canada, with the majority aiming to settle in Toronto, where all the lucrative job opportunities are.

Known for its scenic beauty, Metro Vancouver also attracts many immigrants. British Columbia’s population growth is expected to be driven by immigration again this year when it will welcome a record more than 70,000 permanent residents.

“Our region continues to grow because we attract people and businesses from all over the world,” said John DiMichele, CEO of the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board, in July.

DiMichele also urged policymakers at all levels to build more homes as “housing demand” will “remain strong over the long term.”

This article is informational only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without any guarantee.

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