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Is it Cheaper to Live up North?

29 May 2012

Forget about Ottawa mortgages and Toronto mortgages, it might be cheaper to live up North!

A recent report from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation shows that it may be cheaper to live up North – way up North – than it is to live in the Southern parts of Canada. This, the figures show, is due to higher salaries in areas such as Iqaluit, Yellowknife, and Nunavut; along with much lower home prices. But, those who live there disagree and when you take into consideration the much higher cost of living, it may not be incredibly cheaper to live in the North after all.

According to CMHC, the average home only costs 3.7 time the average homeowner’s salary. Compared to the Southern provinces, where homeowners pay approximately seven times their salary to own their home. But it’s not just that home prices are lower, incomes are also higher in the Northern provinces which contributes to the statistics and, also according to CMHC, makes it much more affordable to live up North.

In Yellowknife, where a home costs on average four times the amount of one’s annual salary, incomes also average around $92,000. That pales in comparison to the lower parts of Canada, where the average yearly salary for homeowners is $52,000.

To back up their figures, CMHC market analyst, Regine Durrand said in a report along with the stats, “The economy there is growing three times faster than the rest of Canada. So thanks to that, folks enjoy a very high level of income.”

But even with those high incomes levels and low home prices, is it really that much cheaper to live up North?

Not according to those that live there. Brock Junkin from Nunavut says, “The cost of housing is a little too expensive, I think. Which is a considerable problem, especially for younger people because they can’t afford to buy housing.”

Others agree, and according to Blake Wile from Yellowknife, housing was much more affordable ten years ago than it is today.

Even with housing aside, the Northern provinces are a prime example of how cheaper housing doesn’t always mean cheaper living. Simple every day things such as groceries and gas are much more expensive up North simply because it costs so much more to ship them up there, coupled with a low demand due to lower populations.

Della Fraser, a real estate agent in Yellowknife says that one of the biggest problems homebuyers have is coming up with a down payment to buy a home – another symptom that the cost of living may be leaving people strapped, even without mortgage debt. But, says Fraser, there’s an easy solution to that problem.

“Most banks will lend you that five per cent down on a line of credit, or there are various ways to do it,” she says.

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