The Cheapest Places to Live in CanadaMay 31, 2022
Certain parts of Canada are notoriously expensive places to live. Vancouver and Toronto, for instance, regularly rank on lists of the priciest places to buy or rent a home—not just across Canada but globally. And while these can be highly desirable places to live and work, more and more people are choosing to leave large Canadian cities and major economic centres in favour of more affordable places to live.
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It’s no surprise why. Thanks to continued inflation and supply chain problems, just about everything is getting pricier these days—from gas prices to housing costs to everything in between. That means already-expensive places like Vancouver are growing more and more unaffordable by the day.
If the rising cost of living is inspiring you to look for the cheapest places to live in Canada, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve done a deep dive to find some of the best (and most affordable) places to live in Canada.
Whether you’re looking for the absolute cheapest place to live in Canada, the most affordable Canadian city, the cheapest place to rent in the country, or even the cheapest mountain towns, you’ll find all the answers (and more) right here.
Where’s the lowest cost of living in Canada?
Before diving in, it’s helpful to understand that finding the cheapest places to live in Canada isn’t an exact science. Cost of living varies a lot from city to city and province to province, plus it can be a bit subjective, depending quite a bit on a person’s or family’s specific needs. The affordability of Vancouver for a single person with a high-paying job, for instance, doesn’t easily compare to the affordability of Winnipeg for a single-income family of five.
That being said, it’s possible to identify in broad terms where some of the lowest cost of living in the country is by province and region, as well as some of the cheapest places to live in Canada generally.
What’s the lowest cost of living province in Canada?
Look to eastern Canada for some of the lowest cost of living provinces in the country. The Maritimes as a whole are a popular landing spot for Canadians who want to live more affordably, while New Brunswick in particular is home to some of the lowest housing costs in the country.
For instance, the average price to rent a 2-bedroom apartment in New Brunswick is around $895 per month. Of course this lower cost of living comes with some tradeoffs. Depending on your education and professional skills, there may be fewer job opportunities for you in the Atlantic provinces.
Quebec is another lower cost option, routinely ranking as one of the cheapest places to live in the country. This is mainly thanks to housing and utility costs that are well below the national average, plus the province also boasts subsidized day care, which makes it especially affordable for young and growing families.
Where’s the cheapest place to live in Ontario?
Ontario is a fantastic place to live, with incredible provincial parks and direct access to the Great Lakes. The largest city in Canada, Toronto, is one of the most expensive in the country but there are plenty of other great places to settle down in Canada’s largest province.
Northern Ontario in particular is home to some of the lowest housing prices in the province. Timmins, Sudbury, and Sault Ste. Marie are three of the most affordable destinations that are on average only a four to five hour drive from the regional center, Toronto.
Housing prices here are dramatically lower than the national average. Take Timmins as an example. There, the average price of a single-detached home in 2022 was $215,000, and 1-bedroom rentals can be found for around $1,000 per month.
Where’s the cheapest place to live in BC?
British Columbia might be home to one of the most expensive places to live in the country—Vancouver—but there are plenty of affordable options to be found elsewhere in the province.
If you want to stay within reasonable driving distance of Vancouver’s Lower Mainland region, the Fraser Valley is where you can find some semblance of affordability, at least in comparison to the sky high prices of suburbs closer to the downtown area. The Fraser Valley is home to cities and towns like Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Mission, and Hope. The cost of living here varies widely. For instance, in 2022 the average price of a home in Hope is $550,000 while in Abbotsford it’s $890,000.
If you’re willing to stray further afield, smaller towns like Castlegar in B.C.’s Kootenay region is where you can potentially get more for your money. Single-detached homes here go for an average of $500,000 but for two to three times the size of property you would get for the same price elsewhere. In northern British Columbia, smaller cities like Prince George offer affordable housing and access to higher-paying jobs in the forestry and mining industries.
Where’s the cheapest place to live in Alberta?
Alberta on the whole is one of the more affordable provinces in the country, thanks in large part to the fact there’s no provincial sales tax, no provincial health premiums, and a relatively low GST rate of 5%.
The big cities here are Calgary and Edmonton, which when compared with some other Canadian cities might seem like two of the cheapest places to live in the country. The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Calgary is around $1300, while in Edmonton it’s just over $960. If you’re looking to buy, the average 2022 price of a single detached home in Calgary is just over $500,000, while in Edmonton it’s just over $400,000.
If you’re looking for even cheaper places to live in Alberta, smaller cities and towns like Lloydminster and Medicine Hat are popular choices, where you can find single detached homes for sale in the neighbourhood of $300,000.
Where’s the cheapest place to buy a house in Canada?
There are plenty of contenders for the cheapest place to buy a house in Canada but one location comes in again and again as the clear winner: Atlantic Canada.
There’s no shortage of excellent choices here for anyone looking to make the move and pick a new place to call home. There’s an endless array of small seaside towns that dot the coasts of each maritime province, smaller inland cities that provide a nice balance of affordability and amenities, and larger maritime cities like Saint John (New Brunswick), St. John’s (Newfoundland and Labrador), Halifax (Nova Scotia), and Charlottetown (Prince Edward Island).
Price varies here too. In northern New Brunswick, for instance, average home prices in 2022 were around $167,000, while on Prince Edward Island the average was around $340,000. Even with this wide variety, prices in Atlantic Canada are dramatically lower than the national average.
Where’s the cheapest place to rent in Canada?
Like home prices, rental rates have been steadily rising across the country in recent years, climbing as much as 18% in some places from 2021 to 2022 alone. There are still deals to be had, however, if you’re willing to relocate.
As with buying a home, Atlantic Canada is among the cheapest places to live in Canada for renters. According to Rentals.ca, the national average to rent a one-bedroom unit is $1,535 but in places like Moncton, New Brunswick that price is around $960. In St. John’s, Newfoundland it’s around $880.
You can also find similar rental rates in parts of Alberta and throughout the prairie provinces. In Red Deer, Alberta one-bedroom rent averages around $940 per month. In Saskatchewan you can find one-bedroom rentals in the $900 range even in larger cities like Saskatoon and Regina.
What are the most affordable Canadian cities to live in?
Most of the cheapest places to live in Canada are smaller towns and remote communities. If you’re more of a city slicker but still want to avoid the sky-high cost of living in places like Vancouver and Toronto, you do have options.
One way to find the cheapest big cities to live in is to use the cost of living index. This index grades a place’s cost of living relative to New York City, which has a baseline score of 100. The index takes into account the local costs of housing, utilities, groceries, transportation, child care, and more. The higher the number, the higher the cost of living. It’s not a perfect measure but it can provide some reliable insights that make it easier to compare one place to another.
For example, Vancouver is widely considered to be the most expensive city in Canada based on housing costs. But it actually has a lower cost of living score (73.79) than Toronto (74.26), because the average costs for utilities, transportation, and groceries are higher in Toronto.
What are the cheapest major cities in Canada?
Using the cost of living index, the cheapest major cities in Canada with populations over 500,000 people are:
- Quebec City, Quebec (67.08)
- Brampton, Ontario (67.35)
- Hamilton, Ontario (68.45)
Quebec City boasts an incredible history and stunning architecture, as well as access to the scenic Saint Lawrence River. Brampton sits within easy commuting distance of nearby Toronto, Mississauga, and Richmond Hill. And Hamilton, like big city Toronto, sits on the shores of Lake Ontario.
What are the cheapest smaller cities in Canada?
For smaller cities with populations under 500,000, the cheapest places to live are:
- Regina, Saskatchewan (64.99)
- Windsor, Ontario (66.11)
- Kingston, Ontario (67.71)
Regina is a fast-growing city in the heart of the prairies, home to warm summers and dry winters. Windsor sits in Southern Ontario between Lake St Clair and Lake Erie, and just across the river from neighbouring Detroit. Kingston, meanwhile, sits at the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River, where it empties into vast Lake Ontario.
What’s the warmest and cheapest place to live in Canada?
Canada is far from being the land of perpetual ice and snow that some outsiders like to joke about. Much of the country enjoys long spring and summer seasons, but when autumn and winter bring extreme cold and endless dumplings of snow to most of Canada, there’s one region that stays relatively warm and temperate.
Canada’s mediterranean micro-climate
Canada’s west coast—and Vancouver Island in particular—sits in a unique mediterranean-style micro-climate that keeps year-round temperatures far higher than the national average. While most of the country experiences average lows in the minuses, the annual average lows in Vancouver and Victoria are a balmy 6.8°C and 5.6°C by comparison.
That isn’t to say B.C.’s west coast doesn’t get its share of cold weather, including snow and ice. But winters are significantly more mild here than elsewhere in the country. The big weather tradeoff here is precipitation. B.C. is the soggiest province in the country by a wide margin. Vancouver, in fact, gets about 50 more rainy days per year than stereotypically rainy Seattle.
Cheapest places to live on Canada’s west coast
Of course, Vancouver and Victoria are two of the most expensive places in the country to live. So if you’re looking to take advantage of Canada’s balmy west coast on the cheap, your best bet is to look a little further north up Vancouver Island or B.C.’s Sunshine Coast.
The small seaside city of Courtney, for example, sits on Vancouver Island’s east coast about two hours north of capital city Victoria. Average rent for a one-bedroom apartment here is around $1,400 per month (which is in line with the national average) while the average price of a single detached home is around $660,000.
North of Vancouver on the Sunshine Coast, smaller towns like Powell River similarly let you take advantage of the warmer coastal climate without paying big city prices. Average rent here is $1,300 for a one-bedroom unit, while house prices average around $700,000.
What are the most affordable mountain towns in Canada?
If you’re looking to completely escape city life in favour of something slower paced, Canada is loaded with incredible mountain towns, especially western Canada. The best part is that, because these towns are further from big cities and major economic centers, they’re often among the cheaper places to live in the country. The exceptions, of course, are popular tourist destinations like Whistler in B.C. and Banff in Alberta.
In British Columbia, the tiny town of Fernie is a great choice with a median home price of around $500,000. It sits fully in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, with towering peaks on all four sides of town. Salmon Arm, which sits on the southern shores of scenic Shuswap Lake, is another popular choice that offers easy access to the trails and ski runs of Mount Ida, Fly Hills, and Bastion Mountain. Here, the median home price is around $400,000.
In Alberta, Pincher Creek is one of the more affordable mountain towns you can find with an average home price of just over $400,000. Located about two hours south of Calgary, it sits nestled alongside the Buffalo Head Hills and Clear Hills, and offers easy access to the Rocky Mountains for skiing, hiking, camping, and more.
Western Canada isn’t the only place to find a great mountain town to settle down. In eastern Canada, Quebec’s Mont-Tremblant is at the top of the list as well. It sits in the Laurentian Mountains with access to world-class skiing and scenery. Here, the median cost of a single-detached home is around $400,000.
What are Canada’s best cities for jobs and affordable homes?
The downside of moving to some of the absolute cheapest places to live in Canada is you’ll most likely be limiting your job opportunities. This is especially true if your professional skill set doesn’t easily lend itself to remote working.
If you’re looking for that perfect balance between finding affordable homes and high-paying jobs, here are your best options.
It may be Canada’s third most populous city, but Calgary is still one of the cheapest cities to call home in the country, providing an excellent mix of affordable housing prices and higher-paying jobs.
The price for a single detached home in the Calgary area is around $670,000, which is well below the national average of $850,000. If you don’t need a single detached home you can save even more, as the average price of a condo is around $275,000.
Alberta as a whole boasts one of the highest median household incomes in the country and, according to the most recent census data, Calgary led all major Canadian cities with the highest median income for families. Many companies have their headquarters here in Calgary, and it’s also home to many major industrial parks.
For those seeking high-paying government jobs, our nation’s capital city of Ottawa is hard to beat. It’s also home to one of the best ways to save big on housing costs.
Directly across the Ottawa River from Ottawa sits Gatineau, Quebec. Where the average price of a single detached home in Ottawa is around $750,000 it’s just under $500,000 in Gatineau. Combine this with the fact Quebec is currently the only province in Canada with subsidized day care already in place—costing parents a flat-fee of just $8.50 per child per day—and it’s an excellent landing spot for young growing families. It’s no surprise then that a growing percentage of Ottawa’s workforce commutes daily from much-cheaper Gatineau.
The prairies are getting more and more love from Canadians in recent years. So much so that Saskatoon is one of the fastest growing urban centers in the country, tying for fourth in population growth overall, alongside Calgary, Alberta and Kelowna, BC.
With a total population of nearly 300,000 people, Saskatoon is already a surprisingly big city. The main industries here are agriculture, manufacturing, and mining, plus a few surprises. Known locally as the “Silicon Prairie”, Saskatoon has growing technology, life sciences, and biotechnology industries as well.
On the housing front, the median price of a single detached home in Saskatoon was around $370,000 at the end of 2021, and $213,000 for an apartment. Rental rates are comparatively cheap as well, with a one-bedroom apartment averaging just under $1,000 per month.