Across the bridge: Pandemic spurs Ottawa to Gatineau migration to the highest level in 30 years

Thousands of Ottawans decide that the grass is greener on the Gatineau side

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More residents of Ontario moved to Quebec in 2021 than in the last 30 years, and most of them were Ottawans who decided the grass was greener on the Gatineau side.

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Nearly 16,500 Ontarians migrated to Quebec last year, according to data from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp, and continued a trend that began in 2015 and jumped sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has driven Gatineau rents up to record levels and pushed vacancies down, while vacancies in Ottawa are at record highs.

“There has always been a flow of people going from Ottawa to Gatineau,” said Lukas Jasmin-Tucci, senior analyst at CMHC. “It’s not new, but it’s accelerated during the pandemic.

“There’s always been a big price difference between Ottawa and Gatineau, but that difference has gotten bigger in the last two or three years. And if you add the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, some people may have felt it was a good move to go to. a market that was more affordable for them. “

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The migration is noted in CMHC’s annual rental market report, published in February. Immigration to Quebec from abroad also increased, the report said, and about three-quarters of those arrivals choose to rent instead of buy.

That demand drove the vacancy rate in Gatineau down to 1.1 percent and pushed rents up. The 6.4 percent jump in Gatineau rents is the largest increase CMHC has seen since the survey began in 1990, Jasmin-Tucci said.

Still, Gatineau is still a cheaper place to stay. A two-bedroom apartment in Gatineau is rented for $ 1,035. In Ottawa, a similar apartment costs 50 percent more, or $ 1,550 a month.

The trend across the river has also hit home sales, with the number of Ottawa residents buying homes in Gatineau doubling in 2020, the most recent year in which data is available.

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The ability to work from home during the pandemic has been a driving factor in migration, Jasmin-Tucci said.

“A lot of people worked from home, especially in Ottawa, simply because there’s a huge potential for working from home because of the sectors that make up the work sector. It could be an additional factor. People might say, ‘It does not matter if I is a little further away from my office. ‘

There are many other factors that influence a decision on where to live, of course everything from language, to higher taxes in Quebec, day care costs, commuting times and the quality of health care – a 2016 report ranked Hull Hospital “among the worst in the Western world.” But as the difference between the price of a house or an apartment in Gatineau and Ottawa grows, these other concerns become less important, Jasmin-Tucci said, although he noted that the CMHC report did not specifically look at these other factors.

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“The price of the houses is one of the biggest expenses. That’s definitely the first thing people want to see, ”he said. “Perhaps in recent years people have taken into account things like taxes and thought it was not worth it. But with the widening gap, it may have reached a point where it made more sense to move to the other side. of the river. “

Ottawa’s unemployment rate, meanwhile, rose to 3.4 percent, one of its highest levels in 25 years and more than three times higher than in Gatineau.

But it is not much consolation for low-income families in Ottawa. If you are looking for a two-room apartment for less than DKK 1,200 a month, vacancy is below 0.6 per cent. It jumps to an unemployment rate of 4.6 percent for apartments rented for $ 1,350 or more, the CMHC report says.

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“Despite one of the highest vacancies in the last 25 years, opportunities for lower-income households (in Ottawa) are limited,” the report says.

Demand for housing is pushing new construction of homes, condominiums and apartments to close to record levels on both sides of the Ottawa River. In Gatineau, most apartment construction has been in the Plateau region, while new homes are popping up in outlying communities such as Val-des-Monts, Aylmer and Pontiac.

Whether the migration trend will continue is an open question. Immigration from abroad declined during the pandemic, and those who came to the region were more likely to live in Gatineau. Immigration will increase as the pandemic subsides and may be exacerbated by the arrival of new refugees from the war in Ukraine, he said.

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