Are high housing costs curbing migration to Toronto and Vancouver?
By: Monika Warzecha November 22, 2013

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Photo: JD Hancock/Flickr

A new report from BMO Economics puts the amount of Canadians migrating between provinces at its hit level in almost a quarter century. The biggest reason to switch provinces? Employment, naturally, though the ranking also looked into income, housing affordability and taxes as well.

Regina tops the list of Canadian cities and regions for labour market attractiveness, followed by Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatoon. The capital of Saksatchewan saw 6 per cent year-over-year employment growth, second only to Saskatoon, which recorded a 6.9 per cent jump (Tweet this).

BMO noted that though Regina and Calgary were pretty much neck in neck in the ranking with the highest median levels of employment income, low jobless rates and relatively low tax burdens, it was Regina’s more affordable housing market that propelled the city into first place in the ranking of 19 cities and regions.

Just how do the cities compare? The average rent for a one bedroom apartment in Regina goes for $861, while in Cowtown, it costs $989 a month. For housing, the average price for a Regina home sits at $311,400 while in Calgary, home hunters can expect to pay about $434,000 on average.

Some cities may have seem employment growth, but scored only middling marks in the ranking. Despite Toronto’s respectable employment growth (it came in third after the prairie cities, with a 4.3 per cent boost), it scored 9th overall.

Vancouver, though often touted as the one of the best places to live, ranked 11th as a migration destination, registering -0.2 per cent year-over-year employment growth.

What’s behind the middling scores of these two major cities? According the BMO report, “challenging housing affordability” poses a major drawback for workers on the move. It lists Toronto home prices as averaging at $517,600 and Vancouver seeing a year-to-date average price of $757,200. The rents were also the highest on the list, with the asking price for a one-bedroom apartment going for $1,027 in Toronto and $998 in Vancouver.

The study also pointed out that housing market performance follows migration trends, which explains the robust sales and price growth in Western Canada. Homebuilding in Saskatchewan is seeing a 30-year high in response to migration into the province and Alberta is becoming a sellers’ market.

On the flip side, the Atlantic provinces saw the biggest drain, with combined annual outward migration reaching 11,000 people, or 0.5 per cent of the population. That’s had an effect on the market, with BMO pointing out that Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are in buyers’ market territory.

For more details check out the table below…

BMO migration report