Since the start of the pandemic, Canadians have been exploring new living arrangements including moving out of big cities in search of greater affordability and more space. A recent RATESDOTCA survey revealed that of the 12 per cent of Canadians who plan to purchase or have already purchased a primary residence since April 2020, almost a quarter of them said that COVID-19 played a role in their decision making. One in five (21 per cent) homebuyers have moved or plan to move from a major city hub to a small town/rural area.

Urban Flight: Canada’s Top Places to Move to if You're Trying to Escape the City (CNW Group/RATESDOTCA)
Urban Flight: Canada’s Top Places to Move to if You’re Trying to Escape the City (CNW Group/RATESDOTCA)

Increasingly inaccessible housing prices plague many metropolitan cities and 61 per cent of homebuyers cite affordability as a key criterion when making the decision to relocate. RATESDOTCA ranked the top relocation destinations of 2021 – Langford, B.C.; Kelowna, B.C.; Trois-Rivières, QC; Bathurst, NB; and Rossland, B.C. top the list.

“Canada has some incredible hidden gems if you’re relocating for a change in lifestyle; places people seldom think about,” said Robert McLister, Mortgage Editor, RATESDOTCA. “We set out to discover which of these areas have the best combination of affordability, economic momentum and livability.”

The survey found that 51 per cent of Canadians who moved in 2020 due to COVID-19 did so to “live in an area with more nature” and 36 per cent “felt financial pressure” to find a cheaper home. But square footage and mortgage payments are not all there is to life. The best locations in Canada have so much more.

RATESDOTCA breaks it down in its Livability Report. The report examines factors such as home price growth and mortgage costs, as well as economic and quality of life factors like promising growth trends, amenities and climate. Attributes like proximity to mountains and major water bodies (scenery), outdoor activities and nightlife were also considered.

Canada’s top 10 livable places in 2021 according to RATESDOTCA’s Livability Report:

RankCity/TownProvPop. (Latest)Pop. GrowthAvg Home
Avg 1-
Avg Mortgage
(20% Down)

(20% Down)
1Langford BC 42,6535.2%$725,30011.6%$3,024$107,604**** 
2Kelowna BC 222,7482.0%$553,1755.6%$2,307$86,616**** 
3Trois-Rivières QC 163,2871.5%$224,60032.8%$937$48,866*** 
4Bathurst NB 31,6910.0%$112,8500.3%$471$34,444**** 
5Rossland BC 4,1082.5%$443,88939.9%$1,851$73,477**** 
6Niagara-on-the-Lake ON 18,8651.3%$515,00032.1%$2,147$86,848***** 
7Cowichan Bay BC 90,4481.2%$561,90016.5%$2,343$85,415***** 
8Sydney NS 95,901-0.3%$157,33849.9%$656$43,055*** 
9Penticton BC 46,8850.9%$523,38621.7%$2,182$83,821**** 
10Quebec City QC 832,3280.9%$283,00011.4%$1,180$55,724***** 

“Our first ranked city, Langford B.C. got high marks for growth, affordability (particularly relative to other B.C. hotspots), property tax costs, desirable climate and proximity to spectacular nature,” said McLister. “This and other top 10 locations could see outsized real estate returns in coming years given they check a lot of homebuyer boxes and are relatively cost effective.”

“This list shows that there are affordable home options for homebuyers willing and able to broaden their horizons,” said McLister. “Canadians who find a community of interest on this list can research properties and use a mortgage calculator to estimate if they qualify for financing.”

RATESDOTCA compared more than 150 cities and towns outside the biggest metropolitan areas. The analysis compiled factors including price trend­­­­s, migration data and airport accessibility, for example, which have never been assembled in a Canadian city ranking of this scale. That’s in addition to the editorial ratings of each municipality’s qualitative ratings including scenery, nightlife, climate, and outdoor lifestyle. The result is a curated comprehensive index of the top-ranked communities, excluding metropolitan cities, in Canada.

For the full list of rankings and data, click here.