The cost of living in Ontario is seemingly out of control. British Columbia is getting up there as well, however there are still some cheap places to live in BC and Ontario. In this piece, we'll be speaking on Ontario.
Not only is the province dealing with the same high inflation plaguing the rest of the country, but residents also have to contend with some of Canada's highest housing costs. Despite sharply higher interest rates, the housing costs haven't really budged. And rent continues to be astronomical.
A few years ago, too-high home prices were strictly a Toronto phenomenon. Prospective home buyers could go to places like Hamilton, Burlington, Ajax, or Guelph and be able to afford a good house. Fast forward a few years, and those markets are almost as expensive as Toronto.
Unfortunately, there aren't too many options for folks looking to find a cheap place in Canada's largest city. They really only have two choices -- they can either suck it up or move to a more affordable place.
Moving is no small decision. You'll be forced to leave your family, friends and perhaps have to look for a new job. But it could be a decision that ultimately makes saving money easier and thriving over the long term.
Let's take a closer look at ten of the cheapest places to live in Ontario: communities with decent amenities, plenty of job opportunities, and, most importantly, a low living cost compared to expensive cities like Toronto or Ottawa.
What are the cheapest places to live in Ontario?
- Niagara Region
- North Bay
- Thunder Bay
- Sault Ste. Marie
10. Niagara Region
Median home price: $654,100
With the average home price in St. Catherines/Niagara Falls region up to more than $650,000, it's not necessarily a cheap place to live. It's only affordable compared to an even more expensive market -- like downtown Toronto.
Both cities have a few good things going for them. You can easily use various transport options to get to Toronto or drive yourself. The strong tourism sector helps keep the local economy afloat. Both cities are close to the U.S. border, allowing residents to take advantage of deals offered by American retailers.
And for many, living close to one of the world's greatest natural wonders is well worth paying a little extra.
Median home price: $607,200
Like Niagara Falls, London is hardly a low-priced metro, especially compared to non-Ontario options like Sherbrooke, Quebec City, or almost all of Alberta and Saskatchewan. But Ontario's fifth-largest metro area still has a lot going for it.
London is located on the Thames River, approximately 200km from Toronto and Detroit. It is a regional centre of both healthcare and education, featuring one of Canada's top universities, the University of Western Ontario. Other prominent industries include financial services, manufacturing, and technology.
London is one of the oldest cities in Canada, incorporated as a city in 1855. It has grown significantly over the years, annexing surrounding land in several different transactions. This has also helped the city steadily grow its population from 311,620 in 1991 to more than 420,000 today.
Median home price: $575,100
Sarnia is located on the shores of Lake Huron in Southwestern Ontario, with a current population of approximately 72,000. It is located some 290km away from Toronto and about 100km west of London. The St. Clair River flows through the city, located on the Canadian/U.S. border.
One of the nice things about Sarnia is its climate. Weather patterns across Lake Huron cool the city in the summer and keep it warmer than most other Canadian cities in the winter. However, that same effect will sometimes create snow storms over the city.
Sarnia has traditionally been an important port on the Great Lakes Seaway, with much of Canada's exported grain going through its grain elevator. It has also been an important refining and chemical center, with the city's infamous Chemical Valley home to more than 60 such facilities.
Median home price: $557,400
Kingston is located on the Northwestern shore of Lake Ontario at the beginning of the Saint Lawrence River. It is halfway between Toronto and Montreal on the 401 Highway.
The city has been historically significant as a military base because of its strategic location. It was named Canada's first capital in the 1840s. These days the city's primary industries are education, health care, and the military. Queen's University is among the largest in Canada, with almost 30,000 full-time students, and the city has the largest concentration of federal correctional facilities in Canada.
Despite a population of more than 120,000, many locals report Kingston still feels like a small town with a high quality of life. It also offers residents easy access to some of Canada's best wetlands, including the Thousand Islands, located just east of the city.
Median home price: $551,200
Windsor is Canada's southernmost city, located on the south bank of the Detroit River and on the Canadian/United States border. It is just a short drive to Detroit and is approximately 3.5 hours drive from Toronto.
Windsor's economy is best known for the auto industry, with Chrysler and Ford having major plants in the city. It is also home to the Hiram Walker & Sons distillery, a large casino, the University of Windsor, and a handful of major tech companies. It is also home to the Ambassador Bridge, North America's busiest commercial border crossing point.
Median home price: $429,100
Sudbury -- or more officially, the City of Greater Sudbury -- is Northern Ontario's largest city, with a population of approximately 170,000. It is about 50km north of Lake Huron, a four-hour drive to Toronto and more than five hours to Ottawa.
Sudbury is traditionally a mining city, but the economy has diversified in recent decades. Like many cities in this list, Sudbury has evolved into a regional hub with solid healthcare, education, and retail sectors. It is also home to one of Ontario's largest Francophone populations. Approximately 40% of citizens can speak French.
Sudbury is one of the most affordable cities in Ontario. The bad part is it's also one of the coldest, with the average low in January hitting -17.
4. North Bay
Median home price: $407,000
Located on the shore of Lake Nipissing in Northeastern Ontario, North Bay has a population of approximately 50,000. It is located equidistant from Ottawa and Toronto, which are about a three-hour drive.
North Bay developed as a railroad center and had significant military importance during the Cold War. These days the city is an important regional hub, with many jobs provided by the public sector. It is also home to Nipissing University, with some 4,000 full-time students and more than 1,500 staff.
According to CMHC data, average rent in North Bay is incredibly affordable. The average apartment rent is just $1,085 each month. Utilities might be a little more than average since North Bay is colder than Southern Ontario. However, the average cost of living is still quite reasonable.
3. Thunder Bay
Median home price: $325,600
Thunder Bay has traditionally been Northwestern Ontario's regional hub and largest municipality but has been recently surpassed by Sudbury. It is located near the northern shore of Lake Superior. It has grown to be an essential rail and ship transportation hub. The closest big city is Winnipeg, which is an eight-hour drive.
The city is easily one of the most affordable places to live in Ontario. The average price of a home is very reasonable. A one-bedroom apartment can be had for less than $1,000 per month. Low rent is a really effective way to keep your total expenses down.
Thunder Bay also has decent services, including hospitals, a university, retail, and plenty of nature for those who love the outdoors, and is home to a large Terry Fox monument, shown in the picture.
2. Sault Ste. Marie
Median home price: $276,600
Sault Ste. Marie is located on the St. Mary's River on the Canada/United States border, between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. Nicknamed "The Soo," the city has a population of 72,000 and is a long eight-plus hour drive from Toronto.
The city has traditionally been a big part of the Great Lakes shipping system, with its canal being one of the busiest in the world. The local economy is also buoyed by steelmaking and forestry, and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation is also a large employer.
Sault Ste. Marie's resource-rich economy is one reason local real estate is so cheap, which doesn't matter as much for someone who can work from anywhere.
Median home price: $259,600
Timmins is located in Northeastern Ontario on the Mattagami River, with a population of 41,145. It is an almost eight-hour drive away from Toronto.
The city rose to prominence on the back of the gold industry, with the first mines opening up in the 1910s. Forestry has also been a significant employer traditionally. These days, Timmins is a regional service center for the surrounding population, and the mining industry continues to provide jobs.
Folks used to Toronto's inflated real estate prices can hardly believe how cheap Timmins is. The median rent is under $1,000, with many apartments also covering utilities. The mortgage payment on a median house (assuming 20% down and a 5% interest rate over 25 years) is just over $1,200 monthly. That's a fraction of the cost compared to most other places in Canada.