Ottawa, Ontario and Gatineau, Quebec are border cities. They exist on either sides of the Ottawa River. And yet, 2017 data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation revealed that there’s about a $450 per month rent spread on the average two-bedroom apartment in these two cities. The average rent on the Ontario side was $1,232 per month; whereas the average rent on the Quebec side was $782 per month.
Now, Ottawa is bigger. The city has a population of about 934,243 (2016); whereas Gatineau is about 276,245 (2016). Ottawa is also the nation’s capital, and so the center of gravity is firmly toward the former. But the border is also very porous. Google Maps is telling me that you can walk from downtown Ottawa to downtown Hull (Gatineau) in 30 minutes. So why then is there such a rent disparity?
Is there a language barrier? Is it because income taxes are higher in Quebec? Or is it something else? Interesting.
Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash
Happy to give you context on the Ottawa vs Gatineau differences some time.
Mainly the tax disparity (can easily be $400 a month difference in income), travel across can be quite a hassle as there are only a few bridges that funnel everyone across (If you bike or walk it is fine but a lot of gov’t offices are moving to the suburbs of Ottawa), and I think a lot of Ontarians – especially those who don’t speak french – are scared to make the jump with the possibility of losing Ontario health care, changing plates, changing license, etc and all the hassles that come with moving provinces. However a lot of people don’t realize a lot of things are cheaper on the Quebec side – car and home insurance, rent, houses, hydro, etc which makes the numbers more or less even out. There is also the physical divide – I know lots of people who have moved there and come back because “none of their friends would visit them”. It does feel like a huge task to get across especially in winter.
That being said a lot of people move to Ottawa because of access to outdoors – as did I from Toronto last year, and I see a huge movement of young professionals (early 30s) moving up to areas like Chelsea and Wakefield in Quebec, which border Gatineau park where most houses are on a forested acre+, but its still a very quick trip to the city. I’ve just purchased one myself. I think most people who want to take advantage of things in Quebec are willing to move further than Hull, and live in areas that have more of a community vibe. There is a huge development happening in Chelsea right now, it was in the news a couple of weeks ago. The village is meant to mirror dutch planning. The house prices seem obnoxious to me compared to what else is available in the area (I’ll take the acre of forest and 1970’s viceroy over a townhouse with tiny yard any day), but people are willing to pay to become a part of the movement I guess.
Anyway you will find tons of discussion on the subject on Reddit, which I have read through many times while I was mulling over the decision to make the move.
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Having lived in both places I can support the comments Sarah just made. As well the housing quality in Gatineau is not as good as Ottawa generally speaking and neither are the neighbourhoods. I too lived a rural existence just above Gatineau because the community itself offered very little if anything but the landscape offered quite a lot. It took just 20 minutes to drive to the Ottawa market which is about the only place in Ottawa that has a pulse.
The community project Sarah referred to in Chelsea has been under dialogue forever (if it is the same one I am thinking about.) No matter where or what you build many will object. Chelsea is very small and romantic and a large development of course threatens to change its character no matter how sustainable and green it purports to be.
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“No matter where or what you build many will object.”