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British Columbia

Thinking of moving to Toronto or Vancouver? Recent reports on house prices might make you think again. While the housing market seems to have stagnated in many parts of Canada, not so for these two major Canadian cities.

What does $1million buy you in the Canadian housing market?
Where I live: a lakefront mansion
Most of Canada: an extremely comfortable house
Toronto and Vancouver? $1million is the price you’ll pay for the average detached house.

No wonder their many residents are unhappy. Just check out #Don’tHave1Million on Twitter and you’ll get the picture.  Frustrations are rising as people are losing out in bidding wars and many house hunters are resigning themselves to becoming long-term renters. And the situation is only expected to get worse.

According to the RBC, a standard two-storey house in Vancouver was selling for $929,000 in January to March of this year. The Canadian average is $455,00. As if this doesn’t sound bad enough, this means that almost 87% of the average household income in the city would be going towards the mortgage, utilities and property taxes. That doesn’t leave you much of a life! Toronto isn’t too far behind: average price of $759,800 and housing costs accounting for 67% of your average income. Lenders typically recommend that not more than 30% of your gross income go towards housing costs.

What does all this mean for new immigrants?  With more people unable to buy, that puts more pressure on the rental market in these two cities, making it even harder to find decent rental properties when you first move here. Latest figures back this up showing ever decreasing vacancy rates in Greater Vancouver and Toronto combined with–not surprisingly– the highest rental prices in the country. The average monthly rent for a 2-bedroom unit in Vancouver is now $1345.00, compared to the Canadian average of $949.00.

If you’re looking to get on the Canadian property ladder, you may have some equity to cushion the blow if you’re moving here from Europe and selling your home,  but you’ll still need to secure good jobs to feed that mortgage every month.

While it may be tempting to broaden your house search to a wider geographical area and live further out of town, this will likely increase commuting time and impact on your quality of life.  Toronto and Vancouver are fantastic in so many ways for new immigrants, but maybe it’s time to look elsewhere and consider Canada’s other large and medium size cities.

As a side note to this, recent reports suggest that the boom out west is finally slowing. Fort McMurray – which at one point couldn’t find enough housing for its huge influx of workers – has seen its unemployment rate double in the last year due to oil sands layoffs. And surprisingly, the unemployment rate in Calgary has recently increased – up 0.5% in July on the previous month. Admittedly this is only one month, but  this puts it at a higher unemployment rate than London, Ontario, for the first time in 15 years. Southwestern Ontario has been hit hard recently by manufacturing losses, so it’ll be interesting to see if this is the start of a trend.

Have you been thinking of moving to Toronto or Vancouver? Do these reports make you think differently?

 

Congratulations to Zoe Cremin, a software engineer originally from Ireland, who last month started working at Sycle.net Technologies Ltd. in Vancouver. Zoe’s case is special because she’s the first provincial nominee to become a permanent resident via Express Entry—the British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) in this case.

The last month has seen immigration ministers from across Canada getting together to discuss economic immigration. As always seems to be the case, the focus was on ways to improve “labour market outcomes” for new immigrants and ensure that Canada remains a destination of choice for skilled workers seeking to relocate. $1 billion is being invested in settlement services across Canada during 2015-16.

Express Entry (of course) was discussed, as well as the continued importance of PNPs. The aim is to have economic immigrants make up 70% of all Canadian immigrants within the next few years, although no target date has been given. Currently this figure stands at 63%. B.C. Minister, Shirley Bond, is quoted as saying: “with one million job openings anticipated as a result of retirements and economic growth, the Express Entry program will be an important way to help meet our workforce needs.” The situation is likely to be similar across other provinces.

There’s also a push to increase the number of French speakers entering Canada. But for anyone thinking of moving to Quebec, a reminder that their immigration system is completely separate, so they weren’t involved in these discussions at all.

Coming months will see an ongoing series of consultations with the private sector, as well as continued close analysis of labour market data with regards to setting immigration levels. Does this mean that things will be changing again in the not-too-distant future, I wonder. Hopefully not too soon as we’re all still just getting used to Express Entry.

In other immigration news, the Citizenship and Immigration Minister announced that the 50,000th Super Visa has recently been issued. The approval percentage is high for these visas—80% approval and processed within 3 months! Definitely good news for anyone hoping to bring over parents and grandparents for extended stays.

Any finally, to Ontario where the Ontario Immigration Act has recently been passed. This establishes collaboration as a key goal in addressing labour market needs and successful integration of immigrants into all communities across Ontario. Partners will include federal and local governments as well as employers and the non-profit sector. The act also supports the expansion of Ontario’s provincial nominee program.

It’s good to see that economic immigration is high on the agenda right now and that all levels of government—federal, provincial, and territorial—are working together to seek improvements. If you’re thinking of making the move to Canada and have the necessary job skills and experience, now is a good time to be considering your options. Canada definitely wants you!