Most Canadians agree, especially those living in our largest and most expensive cities. The cost of living is spiralling out of control.
The big problem with affordability in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal is everyone wants to live in these places. Demand outpaces supply, causing prices to go up.
Why is Canada so expensive?
Another factor driving up prices in Canada's largest cities is immigration. Canada added more than 430,000 newcomers in 2022 alone, adding a little more than 1% to our population. Immigrants are much more likely to settle in large cities since these places already have a lot of immigrants, good job opportunities, and usually offer an experience closer to what they are used to. At least compared to rural Canada.
In early 2022, as inflation fears were spreading across the globe, the Bank of Canada started hiking interest rates, increasing the cost of borrowing money and servicing a mortgage. Many long-suffering Canadian renters were thrilled at this news, projecting higher rates would finally burst the bubble. A year later, it's more of the same. The bubble just hasn't burst. Will it ever? It's difficult to say.
What to do about Canada's rising cost of living
Unfortunately, there aren't many options for many frustrated Canadians in these cities. Prices aren't likely to hit anywhere close to affordable anytime soon. Government programs mean well but are unlikely to help. And millions of voters are sitting on massive real estate gains. This makes any real reform akin to political suicide.
There's only one choice. If these folks want to buy, they must move to an affordable city.
Moving is a big decision. It costs a lot, especially to move cross-country. It means leaving family and friends behind. It usually means starting a new job. It's ultimately a risky move that may not work out.
But it might be the only way for thousands of Canadians to afford a lovely house and a comfortable lifestyle on a typical middle-class income.
All sorts of places across Canada offer good amenities with low average monthly expenses, thanks mainly to cheap real estate. Let's take a look at the top 20. One of them may be your next home.
What are the cheapest places to live in Canada?
- Sherbrooke, Quebec
- Prince George, BC
- North Bay, Ontario
- Prince Edward Island
- Lloydminister (AB and Sask)
- Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
- St. John's, Newfoundland
- Moncton, New Brunswick
- Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan
- Winnipeg, Manitoba
- Regina, Saskatchewan
- Saint John, New Brunswick
- Lethbridge, Alberta
- Red Deer, Alberta
- Thunder Bay, Ontario
- Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
- Trois-Rivières, Québec
- Medicine Hat, Alberta
- Quebec City, Quebec
- Edmonton, Alberta
20. Sherbrooke, Quebec
- Average house price: $416,896
- Median income: $62,400
- Population: 178,809
Sherbrooke is a Quebec city located southeast of Montreal and just a short drive from the U.S. border. It is the sixth-largest city in Quebec and the 30th-largest in Canada, and is also one of the safest cities to live in Canada.
Sherbrooke is a university city with eight different institutions calling it home. These schools collectively educate more than 40,000 students annually, employing 11,000 people, including 4,000 teachers and professors. Tourism is another primary industry; thousands flock to Sherbrooke yearly to enjoy its beautiful mountains, rivers, and lakes.
One negative for English speakers is that Sherbrooke is prominently a French city. More than 80% of households listed French as their first language.
Even rent is cheap in Sherbrooke. A one-bedroom apartment has an average rent of just $880.
19. Prince George, BC
- Average house price: $368,403
- Median income: $88,000
- Population: 82,326
Prince George is in northeastern British Columbia, just a short drive to the Alberta border. Many refer to Prince George as B.C.'s northern capital.
Prince George's economy has traditionally depended on forestry, but it has recently diversified. It has become a hub for the area and is dominated by the service industry, including health care, education, and retail. Natural resources are also a significant employer in the area.
There are two big negatives about Prince George. The first is that it isn't located near any big cities. The closest big city is Edmonton, which is more than 7 hours away by car. And secondly, its northern location means winters can be pretty cold.
Still, Prince George offers an excellent combination of cheap real estate, above-average salaries, good amenities, and lots of nature nearby. It's a fine place to live.
18. North Bay, Ontario
- Average house price: $373,200
- Median income: $72,000
- Population: 52,662
North Bay is located in Northeastern Ontario, approximately the same distance from Toronto and Ottawa. It is the only city in Ontario with an average home price under $400,000. It is also just a few hours away from Toronto.
Unlike many of its Northern Ontario peers, whose economies are dominated by resources, North Bay's economy is quite diversified. It has a university and several colleges. Tourism is also a significant driver of the local economy, and so is selling supplies to mines up the road in Sudbury.
If you're looking for an affordable place to live that is close to Toronto, there aren't many choices. North Bay offers an excellent alternative for those who don't want to be too far from a world-class city.
17. Prince Edward Island
- Average house price: $341,800
- Median income: $73,500
- Population: 173,954
Prince Edward Island is Canada's smallest province; small enough, the entire island can almost be classified as one metro. Approximately a quarter of the population lives in Charlottetown, the province's largest city.
PEI offers a better climate than many other parts of the country -- including warmer winters and cooler summers -- and a diverse economy. The main economic drivers include agriculture, fishing, and tourism. Many people from Ontario own property on Prince Edward Island, attracted by the cheap real estate, ocean views, and plenty of golf.
Even though Charlottetown's real estate is quite reasonable, people looking for a better deal don't have to go far. Summerside, less than an hour from Charlottetown, offers a wide selection of homes under $250,000.
16. Lloydminister (AB and Sask)
- Average house price: $262,302
- Median income: $98,000
- Population: 20,554
Lloydminster is a small city straddling the Alberta and Saskatchewan border, located east of Edmonton on Highway 16. It is approximately halfway between Edmonton and Saskatchewan's capital city, Saskatoon.
Despite being one of Canada's most affordable cities, Lloydminster is close to the bottom of this list because of a few drawbacks. It's the smallest city on this list and isn't close to a bigger center. It is cold in the winter, with its average January high of -14.3 degrees. And its local economy is driven by oil, which inevitably leads to weakness when crude prices are down.
But Lloydminster has a lot going for it, too. It is the youngest city in Canada, especially on the Saskatchewan side of the border. Petroleum helps increase everyone's wages, which is especially powerful when you combine it with the city's cheap living costs. And it has all the amenities one needs, despite its small size.
15. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
- Average house price: $372,400
- Median income: $85,000
- Population: 266,141
Saskatoon is Saskatchewan's largest city. It is the 17th largest city in Canada. It is named after the saskatoon berry native to the area.
Saskatoon is a diversified metro with a robust economy. The city also offers a thriving service industry and links to natural resources like potash, uranium, oil, natural gas, coal, and diamonds. Finally, agriculture is a significant economic driver, especially in areas outside the city. It has delivered steady economic growth for decades.
The city doesn't have many drawbacks, but there are a few. The climate is one; Saskatoon's winters are pretty cold. However, the summers are enjoyable, with plenty of sunshine and warm temperatures. Although its airport has many flights within Canada, its international options are slim for those who like to travel.
Saskatchewan as a whole is an excellent value compared to Toronto, Vancouver, or Montreal. The only reason Saskatoon isn't higher on this list is that, compared to the rest of the province, it's pretty expensive.
14. St. John's, Newfoundland
- Average house price: $314,600
- Median income: $75,000
- Population: 110,525
St. John's is the capital and largest city of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is the easternmost city in North America and is Canada's 20th-largest metro area.
St. John's economy is primarily linked to government employment and the ocean. Tourism is also a big draw, especially in the spring and summer months. All three levels of government -- including the feds -- have led to the growth and stability of the economy. Offshore oil and gas have also replaced fishing in the economic pecking order.
The city has quietly grown to be one of Canada's wealthiest. It has the second-highest per capita GDP in the nation. Oil and gas jobs have helped push everyone's wages higher. And it has been growing faster than most other comparable metros. That is not bad for a place most wrote off as dead decades ago.
13. Moncton, New Brunswick
- Average house price: $305,200
- Median income: $68,000
- Population: 79,470
Moncton is the largest city in New Brunswick, located at the geographic center of Canada's Maritime Provinces. It was Canada's fastest-growing metro in 2022, with the population increasing by more than 5%.
The city has recovered nicely after CNR closed its locomotive shops in the 1980s. Today the local economy is one of Canada's more diverse, with industries like insurance, education, and healthcare adding local jobs.
Moncton is also becoming a tech hub as companies from Toronto and Montreal move east, looking for more reasonably priced real estate. It also has more than 30 call centers employing more than 5,000 people.
The city's climate tends to be a little closer to mainland Canada's, meaning Moncton is a little colder and drier than cities like St. John's or Charlottetown. This also helps it avoid some of the more vicious storms.
12. Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan
- Average house price: $217,300
- Median income: $74,000
- Population: 33,910
Moose Jaw is Saskatchewan's fourth-largest city and the second-smallest on this list after Lloydminster. It is located at the intersection of highways 1 and 2, the province's two most important highways and is 77km west of Regina.
The thing that sticks out about Moose Jaw is it has some of Canada's cheapest real estate. As of publication, almost a hundred properties in the city are listed for less than $300,000. That's a lot of affordable houses.
Moose Jaw has a surprisingly diverse economy. Major industries include agriculture, tourism, and the military. Canada's famous Snowbirds have their home just outside of the city. The city also has attractions like a casino, geothermal spa, and tunnels made famous by bootleggers in the 1920s.
The city is too small to be ranked higher on this list, but it might be the cheapest place to live in all of Canada.
11. Winnipeg, Manitoba
- Average house price: $329,900
- Median income: $80,000
- Population: 834,678
Winnipeg is Manitoba's capital and largest city, located where the Red and Assiniboine rivers meet. It is Canada's sixth-largest city and eighth-largest metro area.
Canada's "Gateway to the West" has much going for it. It has a rich history, strong cultural heritage, plenty of tourism, and professional sports. It is near one of Canada's largest lakes. Major employers include provincial agencies, Canada Life Assurance Company, Boeing, Monsanto, and the Royal Canadian Mint. The city has long been recognized as a cheap business place, and its location makes it a logical choice for many head offices.
Like many cities in the prairie provinces, the weather is the big downfall to living in Winnipeg. Often dubbed "Winterpeg" by locals, the city's winters are cold, long, and snowy. But summers are pretty pleasant.
10. Regina, Saskatchewan
- Average house price: $310,200
- Median income: $88,000
- Population: 226,404
Regina is the capital city of Saskatchewan, just a hair smaller than Saskatoon. It is one of Canada's newer cities, only tracing its heritage back to the 1870s.
Regina was a planned city built on the Saskatchewan plain. It is very flat, without many trees or bodies of water around. City planners built Wascana Lake, making it a prominent part of the city.
The city offers potential residents plenty of jobs in government services, oil, potash, agriculture, and manufacturing. Various Saskatchewan crown corporations have their head offices in the city, including SaskPower, Sask Gaming, and SaskTel, among others.
In terms of affordable real estate, there are few places better than Regina. It has cheaper real estate despite the average family earning more than Winnipeg or Saskatoon. This translates into a tremendous average cost of living.
9. Saint John, New Brunswick
- Average house price: $268,400
- Median income: $79,000
- Population: 69,895
Saint John is New Brunswick's second-largest city, located on the Bay of Fundy. It is Canada's oldest city, officially christened in 1785.
Maritime industries like fishing, shipbuilding, and shipping have long dominated the city's economy. It operates Canada's third-largest port and the nation's largest oil refinery. The city's economy has long been dominated by the Irving family, which owns interests in shipyards, forestry mills, energy, and various media outlets.
The average family in Saint John can buy a house for less than four times their income, making this city incredibly affordable. The only thing that knocks this location down our list is its size. There aren't as many houses for sale as in other markets.
8. Lethbridge, Alberta
- Average house price: $343,535
- Median income: $102,000
- Population: 92,563
Lethbridge is Alberta's fourth-largest city, located in the southern part of the province. Steady growth has seen the city essentially double in size since the 1980s.
The average family makes over $100,000 in Lethbridge as well-paying industries like education, health care, and government jobs replace agriculture, previously the economic driver. The city is also a regional hub, serving a large trading area, including Southwest B.C areas.
Lethbridge's unique location gives it much nicer weather than other cities in the prairies. It boasts milder winters and cooler summers and is one of Canada's sunniest cities. The trade-off is wind; Lethbridge is incredibly windy.
The average house price is just 3.5 times the median family income, making Lethbridge one of Canada's most affordable places.
7. Red Deer, Alberta
- Average house price: $318,252
- Median income: $104,000
- Population: 99,846
Red Deer is Alberta's third-largest city, with a population of just under 100,000. It is slightly larger than Lethbridge, but Lethbridge is bigger if you count the total metro population.
The city had strong growth between 2001 and 2021, with the population increasing by more than 50%. Growth was driven by natural resources- mainly oil and gas- and the city's unique location was relatively close to Edmonton and Calgary.
Like Lethbridge, Red Deer serves as a regional hub to many smaller surrounding communities, offering amenities like health care, education, professional services, and retail. A lot of money gets poured into the community this way.
Red Deer's house price-to-income ratio is lower than Lethbridge's. There's a reason Alberta does well on this list. It offers excellent value.
6. Thunder Bay, Ontario
- Average house price: 269,593
- Median income: $69,000
- Population: 108,843
Thunder Bay is Northern Ontario's second largest city -- after Sudbury -- and is located on the northern shores of Lake Superior.
Historically, the economy was primarily based on forestry and manufacturing. The importance of these two industries has diminished, giving way to industries like medical research and education. Tourism also helps the local economy, and Thunder Bay is the westernmost point of the Great Lakes shipping network. It has a university and, like many other cities on this list, serves as a regional hub.
Two slight downfalls to Thunder Bay are its remote location and climate. It is an eight-hour drive to Winnipeg or a 1.5-hour flight. It's even further to Ottawa or Toronto. And it is one of Canada's coldest cities, with lows of -30 in December and January not uncommon.
5. Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
- Average house price: $169,600
- Median income: $67,500
- Population: 98,635
Cape Breton Island is the northernmost part of Nova Scotia, connected to the mainland by the Canso Causeway. Seven cities merged to form the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, including Syndey and Glace Bay. It's about a four-hour drive to Halifax.
Traditionally, the region's economy was dominated by coal and steel. When these industries started to decline, Cape Breton's population fell. But the area has bounced back and today features a diverse economy buoyed by tourism, fishing, forestry, education, health care, and various light industries. Additionally, the Port of Sydney hosts some 70 cruise ships every summer.
Cape Breton also has milder winters than many places in Canada, with average January lows of -9. Summers are cool and cloudy. It's an ideal place to retire in.
4. Trois-Rivières, Québec
- Average house price: $299,915
- Median income: $66,820
- Population: 139,163
On the Saint Lawrence River shores, Trois-Rivières is approximately equidistant from Montreal and Quebec City.
Its economy has traditionally relied on manufacturing, pulp, and paper before diversifying into technology, education, health care, and aeronautical. Agriculture is still important, and the city is taking advantage of its location near Quebec's most significant cities to convince other industries to move. With lower average wages and reasonable real estate prices, it's an attractive place to do business.
Two downfalls to Trois-Rivières are the winters -- which are long, cold, and snowy, although no worse than Quebec City or Montreal -- and the predominantly French-speaking population, unless you speak french, of course. Still, it's an excellent choice, especially for a Francophone from Montreal.
3. Medicine Hat, Alberta
- Average house price: $301,553
- Median income: $99,000
- Population: 65,527
Medicine Hat is Alberta's seventh-largest city, located in the southwest corner of the province near the Saskatchewan border.
Like many other smaller cities on this list, Medicine Hat serves as a regional hub for smaller surrounding communities. Other drivers of the local economy include natural gas, agriculture, manufacturing, chemical plants, and the military.
Medicine Hat offers cheap power and heating rates since the city owns these utilities. It also has an extensive trail system and large parks. Winters are cold, but the city often gets warm chinook winds to warm it up temporarily. Medicine Hat is also Canada's sunniest city, with more than 2,500 hours of sunshine yearly.
The city is popular with retirees, and with an average house price of just over $300,000, it's easy to see why.
2. Quebec City, Quebec
- Average house price: $329,000
- Median income: $77,300
- Population: 549,459
Quebec City is Quebec's capital and the province's second-largest metro. It is Canada's 11th-largest city and seventh-largest metro, meaning it has all the amenities of Toronto or Montreal.
Besides cheap real estate, the city also features some of the most beautiful architecture you'll ever see in Old Quebec, plenty of parks and walking trails, excellent public transit, a rich history, and world-class museums. The local economy benefits from local government jobs and a growing tech scene.
Like in Saskatchewan, the province owns many of Quebec City's utilities, meaning citizens pay excellent power and car insurance rates. Yes, slightly higher taxes mean you'll see a little more taken off your paycheque, but it's easy to see the value you're getting.
Finally, Quebec City is still predominantly francophone. English speakers are a minority there, but it is getting easier for anglophones. There are also big pockets of English speakers who visit during the summer months.
1. Edmonton, Alberta
Edmonton is Alberta's capital city and its second-largest metro, trailing Calgary for the top spot. It is the fifth-largest city in Canada and has the sixth-largest metro area. It's also the most populous city on this list.
The city features a diverse economy driven by the provincial government, several universities, health care, energy, railroads, finance, and retail. Although Calgary may outpace Edmonton in economic growth when oil booms, Edmonton's economy performs better when those booms turn to busts.
Edmonton also features urban parkland 22 times larger than Central Park, the Rocky Mountains closeby, a good selection of museums and art galleries, loads of sports including ample golf courses, a rapidly-expanding public transit network, world-class shopping at West Edmonton Mall and Canada's fifth-busiest airport.
Many people immediately dismiss Alberta as a destination, claiming the province is too right-wing for them. But Edmonton consistently votes NDP in provincial elections. It is the only place in Alberta where Liberal and NDP candidates stand a chance in federal elections. It is much more politically moderate than most realize.
Edmonton is more expensive than other Alberta cities on a price-to-income ratio. Still, it has loads of cheap properties -- including condos -- that propel it to the top of this list. It doesn't matter what kind of real estate you're looking for; Edmonton will have it at a reasonable price, too.