Three years and a global pandemic have really changed what Millennials expect from an ideal home, a livable city and a great place to work and raise a family. Back in 2018, our analysis about the best cities for Millennials revealed that Québec City, Victoria and Guelph were the most desirable urban centers for young people at the time. With high scores in categories such as life satisfaction, education and income, these urban hubs were practically magnets for gen Y. But, are these hot spots still the hottest, three years later? Well, yes and no.
According to new data, only Québec City retained its position in 2021, remaining the #1 most desirable city for Millennials. Conversely, Victoria and Guelph lost their advantage, with the British Columbia capital sliding all the way to #8, while Guelph exited the top 10 altogether. This year, Ottawa, ON snatched the second spot, with Kingston, ON, rounding out the top three.
The oldest Millennials are turning 40 this year. This new milestone brings fresh challenges and possibly a new perspective on life for many of the people belonging to one of the most talked-about generations. Some have just started their own families, while many are thinking about buying their own homes or moving to a new city. And while affordable housing, reliable incomes and good healthcare are mainstays, factors such as life satisfaction and climate might also start becoming more important for those Millennials who are looking for the ideal place to call home.
To that end, Canada’s up-and-coming Millennial hot spots in 2021 offer the best when it comes to housing and employment opportunities, but they also boast a high level of life satisfaction and great climate.
For the ranking, we analyzed nine factors for the 85 largest Canadian cities. Aside from income and housing, we also weighed seven other criteria that we thought were important to Millennials: unemployment rate, life satisfaction, crime rate, healthcare, climate, level of education (the percentage of the population with a bachelor’s degree or higher) and the percentage of Millennials in the total population.
The most desirable places for young professionals represent the perfect mix between affordable housing; lifestyle options that promote great life satisfaction; low crime rates; and — last but not least — great weather and like-minded people. And while the top 10 cities offer the perfect balance between all of these factors, certain cities perform better than the most attractive hubs in certain categories.
The three most affordable housing markets among the 10 most attractive cities for Millennials are Trois-Rivières, QC ($174,500); Halifax, NS ($181,827) and Levis, QC ($245,000). Aside from Trois-Rivières, which boasts the lowest home price of all the cities included in the analysis, Halifax is the only other urban centre with benchmark prices below $200,000. At the other end of the spectrum, of the 85 cities in the study, 12 have crossed the $1-million mark.
Meanwhile, Ottawa and St. John’s, NL have the highest median incomes among the 10 best cities for Millennials. Specifically, both cities posted earnings that hover around $125,000. The only other cities with higher incomes for this age group were Québec and Levis, both at $118,410. Not to be outdone, Grande Prairie, AB posted the top income for Millennials ($137,235) of all of the 85 cities in the study. Overall, a total of 61 cities in the study boasted median incomes greater than $100,000, with the remaining 24 posting incomes between $90,000 and $99,000.
Québec City has the lowest unemployment rate of all cities in the analysis. It’s followed by Sherbrooke, QC and London, ON, making these three cities the most appealing from this point of view. Among the 10 most desirable cities for young people, only one other city — Ottawa — has unemployment rates below 5%, while a total of 15 cities had unemployment rates higher than 10%.
The three cities with the largest share of people who had completed higher education were Oakville, ON; Richmond Hill, ON and North Vancouver, BC. However, due to other factors, none of these three cities actually made it into the top 10. So, of the cities that did make up the top 10, only Waterloo, ON and Ottawa, ON were also among the top 10 cities with the most people with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
At 88.33%, New Westminster, BC has the highest healthcare index of the 10 best cities for Millennials. However, in the overall ranking Milton, ON came in first, with an index of 90.74. Without a doubt, factors such as the quality of the health care system, health care professionals, equipment, doctors and costs should always weigh heavy when deciding where to move to.
According to Statistics Canada, “all measures of the Crime Severity Index [CSI] — the overall CSI, the Violent CSI and the Non-violent CSI — increased for the fifth consecutive year.” But, fortunately, some cities are doing better than others. In particular, Burlington; Oakville and Caledon, in Ontario, as well as Levis, QC all have CSI rates below 30%. Yet, aside from Levis, Québec City is the only other attractive urban hub that also had one of the lowest crime rates in the country.
Share of Millennials in Population
Of the top 10 best cities for Millennials, Victoria, BC; St. John’s, NL and Waterloo, ON have the highest shares of young people, all of which surpass 20%. Even so, Grande Prairie, AB dominated the overall ranking by recording the highest percentage of Millennials of all the cities in the analysis (27%).
Moderate temperatures, low humidity and many sunny days are just some of the factors that make for a great climate. As such, British Columbia is the place to be in Canada: The best spots for sun-loving Millennials are Victoria, Nanaimo, Vancouver and North Vancouver. On the other hand, for those who prefer the colder climate, Alberta has all the best spots: St. Albert, Grande Prairie and Regina are some of the coldest and most humid cities in the country.
Although this might sound like an elusive concept, life satisfaction encompasses all of the factors above — and more. And the cities where Millennials report the highest level of satisfaction with their lifestyle are Trois-Rivières and Québec City.
On the other hand, the cities that are less desirable for Millennials tend to have fewer affordable housing options or job opportunities than the cities that are higher on the list. However, while these are the main factors people consider when deciding where to move, colder climates, higher crime rates and even lower overall life satisfaction might influence young people’s final decision, as well.
In fact, three of the 10 least desirable cities for Millennials also boast some of the highest home prices of all of the cities included in the analysis: Langley, BC; Vaughan, ON and Caledon, ON all have average prices above $1 million. This could discourage many young people from moving to the area, as they tend to earn less than older generations and have less money to invest in a home.
Similarly, Cape Breton, NS — the seventh least attractive city for young people — has the lowest income for this age group of all the cities in the study. And, at $89,569, it is also the only city on the list with a median Millennial income below $90,000. Abbotsford, BC and Charlottetown, PEI take the second and third spots, with median incomes a little higher than $90,000. However, on the bright side, of the 10 least desirable cities for Millennials, six boast incomes higher than $100,000.
At opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to unemployment rates are Québec City, QC, and Cape Breton, NS. Specifically, Québec’s capital has the lowest unemployment rate of the 85 cities considered for the study, and is the only city with a rate below 3%. Conversely, at 14.7%, Cape Breton has the highest unemployment rate of Canada’s 85 largest urban centres.
The three cities with the lowest shares of residents that have pursued higher education are Kawartha Lakes, ON; Chatham-Kent, ON and Drummondville, QC. Less than 15% of the people living here have bachelor’s degrees. Meanwhile, of the least attractive cities for Millennials, the highest percentage of people who have obtained higher education live in Vaughan, ON, — an impressive 40.7%.
Factors such as the quality of the health care system, health care professionals, equipment, doctors and costs could be vital when deciding where to move to. To that end, Gatineau, QC has the lowest healthcare index of Canada’s largest cities, followed by Charlottetown, PEI and Coquitlam, BC. Alternatively, of the 10 least desirable cities for Millennials, Langley, BC; Chatham-Kent, ON and Chilliwack, BC have the lowest healthcare indexes.
According to Statistics Canada, “all measures of the Crime Severity Index – the overall CSI, the Violent CSI and the Non-violent CSI – increased for the fifth consecutive year.” Prince George, BC; Grande Prairie, AB and Red Deer, AB have the highest rates of offences in the general ranking, while Chilliwack, BC has the highest rate of the 10 least desirable urban centres for Millennials.
Share of Millennials in Population
Of the 10 least desirable cities for Millennials, Caledon, ON has the lowest share of young people, at around 14%. Similarly, Cape Breton, NS; Chatham-Kent, ON; Langley, BC and Chilliwack, BC also have low numbers and shares of people between 25 and 40 years old. However, in the overall ranking, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC takes the lowest spot, with only 11% of its resident in the 25 to 40 age group.
If British Columbia wins over all the sun-loving Millennials, then Alberta should be a magnet for those who appreciate colder climates and lower temperatures: St. Albert, AB has the lowest climate index of all the cities in the analysis, while Sarnia, ON has the lowest index of the 10 least attractive urban centres for Millennials.
Sarnia, ON — the fifth least desirable city for Millennials — also gets the fewest votes when it comes to life satisfaction in the overall ranking and Fredericton, NB follows suit. But the biggest surprise comes in at numbers three and four: two of most attractive cities for Millennials — St. John’s, NL and Victoria, BC — have two of the lowest life satisfaction rates of all the cities in the analysis.
- To compile our list we looked at data available for Canada’s 85 largest cities by population.
- For each city we analyzed nine different criteria that are attractive to Millennials: yearly income, benchmark average home selling price, unemployment rate, life satisfaction, crime rate, healthcare, climate, level of education (the percentage of the population with a bachelor’s degree or above) and percentage of Millennials of the total population.
- We graded each criterion from 1 to 85 and then found the total attractiveness score for each city by calculating the sum of these grades. Based on these scores, we determined their position in the ranking.
- The data was sourced from Statistics Canada for unemployment rates, Millennials’ life satisfaction, crime severity, education, the percentage of Millennials of the total population and median income, from Numbeo for healthcare and climate, and from CREA and real estate associations for the average home prices.