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Canadians are eyeing moves to these cities for more affordable housing

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Faced with elevated housing prices, half of Canadians in the country's largest cities are considering moving to places with more affordable housing.

Fifty per cent of respondents in the greater regions of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver said they would consider buying a property in cheaper cities if they were able to find a job or work remotely, according to a new Royal LePage survey released Wednesday.

Of renters surveyed, 60 per cent said they would be willing to relocate. Meanwhile, 45 per cent of homeowners polled said they would consider it.

"(Housing) affordability has become one of the major social issues of our time," said Phil Soper, president and CEO of Royal LePage, in a video interview with CTV's News Channel on Wednesday. "The pandemic ushered in a new era of mobility, virtual technology and business practices, opening people's eyes to the fact that we had some great and much more affordable -- call it mid-sized -- cities. So the trends are fitting together."

However, Soper says the findings may not actually translate into actual moves.

"I would caution people though that people saying 'I'd consider moving' is not the same as people moving," he said. "I know after the 2016 election, we had a huge rise in Americans saying they would move to Canada but the actual number who did was quite small."

Still, a sizeable number of people are mulling options.

The following are the percentage of Canadians considering relocating to a cheaper city:

  • 51 per cent of people in greater Toronto area;
  • 54 per cent of people in greater Montreal area;
  • 45 per cent of people in greater Vancouver area.

For people in Montreal, Quebec City was a top choice for a potential move.

For those in Toronto and Vancouver, Edmonton was the most appealing new destination.

Most affordable cities

On the East Coast, Soper said Halifax has gotten more expensive over time, "but Saint John, New Brunswick remains a place where a considerable number of people from central Canada have relocated to since 2020 since the peak of the pandemic."

Here are Canada's most affordable cities based on the percentage of household income needed to pay a monthly mortgage, according to the survey:

1- Thunder Bay, Ont.: 22.2 per cent

2- Saint John, N.B.: 25.1 per cent

3- Red Deer, Alta.: 25.7 per cent

4- Trois-Rivières, Que: 28.5 per cent

5- Edmonton: 28.9 per cent

6- Regina: 29.1 per cent

7- St. John's, N.L.: 30.1 per cent

8- Quebec City: 30.8 per cent

9- Sherbrooke, Que.: 30.8 per cent

10- Winnipeg: 31.8 per cent

While the trend of migration would have benefits for smaller communities, it is also a challenge for urban planners, Soper said.

"We have housing shortage issues not just in Toronto and Vancouver but in these smaller cities," he explained. "It's just the base value of the underlying land is considerably lower than in our largest urban centres. So they're starting at a place of better affordability, but they have not escaped the issue of an acute housing shortage. So urban planners everywhere are grappling with providing enough roofs for our expanding population."

The report used an online panel to survey 900 Canadian residents, aged 18 and older, living in greater Toronto, greater Montreal and greater Vancouver. It was completed between May 13 and May 16. No margin of error can be associated with the web panel, a non-probability sample.

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