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What is the cheapest place to live in Ontario?

by Corben Grant on 08 Dec 2021

Ontario is one of our country's largest provinces and is by far the most populated. According to Statistics Canada, almost 40% of the entire country lives somewhere in Ontario and they have got to have a place to stay.

One problem facing Ontario today is the cost of living in many places getting high. With demand as high as ever, and population growth continuing, home prices are on the rise. Now, many residents are anxious that they won't be able to keep affording to live where they do or have already been forced to relocate to a more affordable housing market.

Toronto, the provincial capital city and most populous city in the province, is unsurprisingly one of the least affordable Canadian cities. A condo in the city centre can easily cost more than a full-sized house elsewhere and Toronto residents pay on average over $2,000 a month in rent for a one-bedroom apartment.

The province's other major city, Ottawa, is more affordable than Toronto, though you will still pay much more to live in the big cities as compared to elsewhere.

Don't despair yet though. The province of Ontario contains over 400 different municipalities so there are still many options outside of Toronto and Ottawa. There are still some cheap places in the province where you can attain the dream of affordable and comfortable living.

Cheap vs. affordable

Generally, when people are looking for the cheapest option, they are concerned with price alone. However, when it comes to real estate, price alone does not tell the whole story. Affordability is a more interesting indicator that can be measured in different ways.

Firstly is the general cost of living that everyone must pay. Housing costs make up a large portion of the cost of living. Many people rent so their rent price is included in their cost of living.

For those looking to buy a house, you need to consider not only the purchase price, but things like legal fees and taxes, carrying costs, and interest rates that will be specific to your circumstances and real estate market. Because the conditions around homeownership vary so much, we will look largely at specific price statistics from real estate sales data. We will look at both house and rent prices as well as some information on the general cost of living.

What areas have the most affordable average home price?

This is a question that many people are asking these days. Desperate to own a home – any home – some Canadians are willing to make the move to make the dream a reality. Here are the most affordable cities in Ontario in terms of home prices.

Cities in the north report the lowest home prices

The region reporting the lowest home prices in October 2021 was Timmins with an average home price of $237,000. This small city around 200km north of Sudbury is home to a small population of around 40,000 people.

The next lowest-priced area was Sault Ste. Marie, with an average price of a home being $275,000. This city is on the western edge of the province near the border to Michigan and is home to around 73,000.

Thunder Bay and North Bay are the next two cheapest cities with prices of $309,000 and $355,000 respectively. These four cities represent the largest cities in Northern Ontario besides Sudbury and demonstrate that the cheapest places in the province are also generally the most remote.Sudbury, though more expensive, still has the 7th lowest prices in the province.

Generally in Ontario, the farther you get to the Golden Horseshoe region around Lake Ontario, the more affordable places you will find.

How location, demand, and demographics affect price

It’s also important to note that affordability does not rely only on house prices, but also on the average income of those looking to buy. Smaller towns as well as remote and rural areas tend to have lower incomes than many of the larger urban areas of Ontario, so home prices are lower as a result of what people can afford. This gets more complicated though in bigger cities with much higher percentages of renters where the home price is less connected to the average income.

Most affordable cities near Toronto

The most affordable large cities near Toronto in southern Ontario include Barrie, Peterborough, Kingston, and Guelph, while further south London and Windsor are other affordable options.

Most Expensive homes in Ontario

Finally, the area reporting the most expensive homes in Ontario was actually not Toronto but the nearby Oakville region, with an MLS benchmark price in October 2021 of $1,438,800. The next highest was the York region, with an average price of $1,370,789.

What are the most affordable cities for renters?

The price of rent represents what a large portion of the population is paying for their housing. It’s also useful for rental property owners to know how much they can charge.

According to the most recent data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), the average rent in Ontario for row housing and apartments of all bedroom types was $1,346 in October 2020.

Lowest rent prices

The lowest prices for rent were found in areas such as Elliot Lake (average price $758), Cornwall ($857) and Sault Ste. Marie ($881). As seen with the house price statistics from before, these areas tend to be less populated and more remote.

Most expensive rents

The most expensive rents were, by far, in the largest city of Toronto with a price of $1,546, over $150 more than the second-place city of Ottawa. The next most expensive cities are Barrie and Guelph.

Where has the lowest cost of living?

The cost of living is a measurement of the amount of money needed for the average person living in the area. This figure takes into account the price of housing, which makes up the largest of expenses, and then other costs such as food, transportation, utility costs, entertainment, and more.

The cost of living is often represented by a monthly value required to cover all expenses or by an hourly figure representing the wage a full-time worker would need to earn to reach the cost of living.

Minimum and living wages

In Ontario, the minimum wage is currently $14.35, which is well below the living wage in all cities in Ontario for which data is available. Even the proposed increase to $15 falls short of a living wage anywhere in the province. Fortunately, most people in the province city earn more than the minimum, but many still rely on the too-small wages to get by.

According to livingcost.org, the average cost of living in Ontario is $2,413.

Lowest cost of living in Ontario

Cornwall, Ontario has the lowest average cost of living at about $1,346. The median monthly salary in the city is $3,451 after tax. Cornwall also has the 6th lowest average house price in Ontario.

The next lowest cost of living is found in North Bay, with a cost of living of $1,649.

Other low-cost areas include Chatham-Kent, Sault Ste. Marie, Owen Sound, Sudbury and Thunder Bay.

Most expensive cost of living in Ontario

Areas well above the provincial average include the GTA such as Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, and Oakville; areas that also have some of the highest-priced homes. In Toronto, the average cost of living is $2,806, with a living wage estimated at over $22/hour.

These figures are largely estimates, as accurate information on exact living costs is hard to pin down and varies from case to case. The cost of living also changes as prices and incomes increase every year.



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