Last week, Moneysense released the 2016 report of the best places to live in Canada, ranking 219 Canadian cities.
I like to browse through the list every year, and always find it interesting to see how the different cities rank. I was viewing this pictorial slideshow of the top 25 cities, and noticed a few familiar places.
This year Ottawa moved up from number two, into the number one spot!
Our city improved three spots this year, keeping us in the top 50. While a neighbouring city I used to live in dropped more than ten points placing it below the 100th spot. The strange thing is, these two cities are side-by-side in the suburbs but are rated almost 80 points apart. How can there be such a huge disparity? While there is a population difference of almost 30,000 people, I am guessing one of the biggest factors is the crime rate – almost 4 times as high! It’s really too bad, because I always thought it had some good things going for it and did not always feel it deserved the bad rap it got. I guess that hasn’t improved…
This got me to wondering about how accurate a picture this report paints. Is it a reliable source for people who are not familiar with some of these places and are maybe considering a move? I know they use quite a variety of criteria, but I found some of the data to be a bit misleading.
For example, I noticed several top cities that I am familiar with showing low unemployment rates and fairly decent average household wages. However, there are some missing key factors that I would consider rather pertinent.
How far do most of these people need to commute for work?
How much work/industry is really in or near the city?
What percentage of people both live and work in the city ?
I know many people from the suburbs who need to commute a fair distance for work. This can often add several hours to their workday. There is also the added cost of commuting to consider.
Furthermore, many of these cities show very low percentages of people walking, riding their bikes or taking public transit to work. This could mean there are not that many jobs near peoples homes, the transit system is not that great or perhaps they are working from home. My guess is that they are more than likely commuting and probably driving to work.
What percentage of the population is retired?
Some cities are known to cater to retirees and have a fair amount of retirement communities and services geared towards seniors. I think it would be worthwhile to know whether that is factored into the unemployment rate. I’ve lived in cities like this, and it drastically affects the job and housing market, as well as the types of businesses found in the city.
How easy is it to find housing?
I like that they include a fair amount of statistics on home and income ratios, home ownership percentages, real estate values and whether there is affordable housing. I realize it’s probably too much to include in this report, but it would be nice to know even a basic ratio of demographics, like retired versus working, or perhaps families with children. This can have a huge impact on neighbourhoods. Is the market busy due to people transitioning to larger homes or downsizing? Are there other factors that could affect housing availability and pricing? Is there some way to determine housing vacancy or turn-over rates? Are apartments and homes mostly offered on a seasonal or temporary basis, or rarely on the market due to various conditions?
Does the city largely rely on tourism?
Tourism can be a positive boost to businesses and cities, but if it is seasonal, this will likely have a direct impact on job and housing availability. It can also bring a lot of extra pedestrian and traffic congestion along with it.
Is this a college or university town?
Like tourism, a large influx of students during certain times of the year can benefit the city. Universities and colleges also provide a lot of job opportunities. However, this also can drastically affect employment, housing, and types of services and businesses available.
What is the community like?
Are there libraries, museums, theatres, recreational facilities, green spaces, parks, bike and walking paths? Is there a good selection of shopping, dining or night life options?
While not important to everyone, being able to get out and enjoy culture, arts and the outdoors in their own city matters to many people. It might be nice if they included something like a work/life balance score in the report.
Is there a hospital in the city?
While they do list a couple of helpful statistics about doctors, it would also be beneficial to list how many hospitals are in the city. Although they do indicate a percentage for people employed in health care, it is not clear whether they actually live and work in that city. Sometimes it can be quite a distance between hospitals and that can be an important factor on where you might choose to live. I think having a hospital in your city is a big benefit, not only to the patients but also for employment in the hospital and affiliated services and business.
What kind of city is it?
It would be great if there was some kind of category for the type of city other than small, medium or large. Further to some of the questions I posed earlier, it could perhaps indicate the primary thing that draws people to live in the city. Is it education, tourism, retirement, or manufacturing/industrial? Is it a bedroom community, with mostly housing? It would be fantastic if they offered some kind of percentages or ratios of land use for residential compared to industrial/business, and maybe even include usage for green spaces and recreational use.
How did your city do?
Here’s a link where you can see the rankings for all 219 cities and search for your city.
What do you think? Did your city make the list? Where did it rank? Do you think it’s an accurate depiction of your city? Is there anything else you’d like to see in their criteria?