What does it really cost to live in Northeastern Ontario?

What does it really cost to live in Northeastern Ontario communities of Hearst, Kapuskasing & Smooth Rock Falls?

After posting  “Free Land to Build your Dream Home for the New Year – Terrain libre pour construire votre maison de rêve pour la nouvelle année” yesterday I received the following comment, and as I had already being planning a post regarding the Cost of Living in our Region of Northern Ontario I decided to post it earlier than planned. So here it goes the honest truth about the Cost of Living in Northern Ontario compared to Southern Ontario…

Northern Gurl commented…

“This article is not truthful at all! it IS very expensive to live in Northern Ontario compared to the rest of the province. Your hydro is higher, cost of heat, food, and gas. You have to travel everywhere on deadly highways because there is only menial job available occasionally in these small places, the odd time well educated and experienced good paying jobs. Almost all the good easily attainable jobs are an hr away. In winter well over an hr. Good shopping is in the big city over an hr away. Winter is very cold, normal -30+, summer is humid and stifling. Its great to attract more tax dollars, but be honest!!”

Before we get too far lets be clear, No where is perfect and I am in no way bashing Sourthern Ontario, I don’t get paid to write these blogs or the website and I don’t make any money etc from posting them. In fact if Fauquier gets too big my property taxes would probably grow right along with it so saying that let’s start by tackling the whole job market issue…

Current Vacancies Hearst-Kapuskasing-Smooth Rock Falls

Medical Marijuana Plant to bring 60+ jobs to Kapuskasing in 2018

There are some crazy misconceptions and myths running around. Southerners think it costs a fortune to live up here and many lifetime Northerners have the impression that the costs of living in the North are considerably higher than that of their Southern neighbors. But is life really so much better down South?

As someone who has lived all over Southwestern Ontario, and even in England for a number of years and who now happily resides in the Northeastern Ontario region 20 mins east of Kapuskasing let me reassure you…

Northerners have it made!

I’ll give you a little background information so you know where I am coming from, and to reassure you all of the information in the article has been researched not just pulled out of thin air.

Housing

Lets start with housing, I have chosen Kapuskasing as the representative community for this region of Northeastern Ontario as it is the most expensive and costs will be comparatively lower in surrounding communities. For example, in the village of Fauquier the average price for a 3 bed, detached home is around $50k to purchase. Town Water & Sewage Fees and property taxes for a 3 bed home are each approximately $900  annually, electricity is billed at Medium Density – Residential Rates with Hydro One.

*Disclaimer: Please note, the Heating Costs and Property Taxes have been obtained directly from home owners living and paying bills in similar properties in the same communities as the listed homes pictured in the below table to ensure they are as accurate and current as possible, they are NOT specific to the properties pictured.

Location
Kapuskasing

 

kapuskasing

Riverside Park Area

Burlington

burlington branthills community

Branthill area

Windsor

 

windsor comparison prop.jpg

Pillette & Tecumseh

Guelph

guelph comparison prop exhib.jpg

Exhibition Park

Wingham

winghampropcomp.jpg

Riverside Area

Purchase Price & Down Payment Required $105,000 purchase

$5,250 down

$530,000 purchase

$26,500 down

$169,000 purchase

$8450 down

$550,000 purchase

$ 27,500 down

$288,000 purchase

$14,400 down

Monthly Mortgage Payment $489.64 $2471.49 $788.08 $2564.76 $1343.00
Total Cost of House and Interest Payments $146,871.22 $741,354.19 $236,393.70 $769,328.78 $402848.71
Property Taxes $1,700 per year $6000 per year $2,080 per year $3500 – $4500 per year $3600-5000 per year
Avg. Monthly Heating Costs $150- Gas Heat $150 – Gas Heat $80 – Gas Heat $165 – Gas Heat $90 -Gas Heat
Avg. Annual Cost of Home Ownership $9,375.68 $37,457.88 $12,496.96 $32,757.12 $21,396.00
Minimum Annual Family Income Required to Purchase $25,000 or less $110,000 $35,000 $110,000 $60,000

Current Property Lisitngs Hearst-Kapuskasing-Smooth Rock Falls

Each of the sample properties in the above chart range in square footage of between 1100 sq ft and 1400 sq ft in property. Tax rates will vary based on the assessed value of a property as done by MPAC and you can find the tax rate calculation formulas for Kapuskasing here.

In the above table $ amounts are in CAD and reflect costs and rates as of the date of publication (Dec 2017). The Mortgage Calculations are based on first time home owners mortgage requirements (5% down) on a 25 year mortgage with a 3.34% 4 year term fixed mortgage rate with TDCanadatrust. The table does not factor in Land Transfer Tax Costs and Mortgage Insurance Costs which increase with the cost of the house and the individual circumstances of the home buyer.

As you will note from the above table the cost of entry into the housing market in Kapuskasing and region is much, much lower than in other Ontario communities. A young individual or couple, even a single parent stands a much better chance of being able to purchase a property and still have money left out of their wages for living and savings. I could go into further discussion about how the cost of housing to income ratio here in the north puts homeowners in a position to save even more on their homes by increasing their mortgage payments and paying off sooner to lower the interest they pay over the life of their mortgage, but that is a topic for another day.

Heating Costs

Heating your home with electricity is a nightmare in ALL of Ontario and not just here in the North. That being said Northern homes have a tendency to be much better insulated than their southern counterparts, they have to be its cold. The fact that we have not cut down all the trees provides a surprising benefit too as it makes a natural wind break, good luck with that down south. The cost of the electricity itself is no more expensive because the price is regulated and exactly the same down south. Northerners have the same options to use oil, propane and natural gas to heat their homes as well as good old fashioned wood. It’s considerably easier to get a woodstove installed (from a building permit perspective) up here than down south and the costs of running it are entirely related to your own level of ambition. If you don’t have your own tree lot to cut your own wood for free than you can buy it cut at around $60 a cord. I ambitiously bought 25 cords my first year and it lasted almost two years. If you don’t have a wood lot and you don’t want to buy from someone else you can always get a permit to cut wood on crown land for personal use fuel wood. 

While it might get pretty cold around here in the winter along with most of the rest of Canada, summers tend to be pretty mild and even the hottest days of the summer are marked by the complete absence of the sticky humidity and smog that covers everything south of Barrie. Anyone who’s ever traveled north through Barrie in the summer has probably seen for themselves the yellowish green haze in their rear-view mirror that hangs over all of Southern Ontario. I don’t even own an air conditioner up here, down south it was an absolute must, and ran continuously from April/May to October with a two week rest generally before having to switch on the heat.

Groceries

I often see comments about the high cost of food in Northern and remote communities. The communities of Smooth Rock Falls – Kapuskasing – Hearst all have the advantage of being situated directly on the Transnational Highway. Which means we get all the same groceries at pretty much the same prices as Southern communities. Just to give you an idea of the costs, check out the following chart for Grocery Stores in our local communities. I personally checked these prices at each store. Heck I’ll show you my grocery bill to feed a family of 7 if your that interested. (Note: Freshmart was still in the process of stocking its new store when I had the opportunity to go in, some items were not yet available, and some less expensive alternatives may not have yet made it in on the shelves.)

Item Larabie’s Independent – Kapuskasing Epicere – Co-op Moonbeam Freshmart – Smooth Rock Falls
4Litre 2% Milk $4.27 $6.89 $6.99
Beef Steak Striploin

$6.88/lb – Sale ($5 off)

Ground Beef

4.39 kg  on sale

Steak striploin

$15.41 /kg

Ground Beef

$8.80/kg- frozen

$11.99/kg -fresh

Striploin Steak $15.41/kg
Bread $2.49 $2.79 $2.29
Cheese 450g block cheddar $4.99 $7.99 $7.49
Margarine – lowest priced 454g available $2.79 $1.99 $2.79
Lettuce Romaine 6 pack

-$6.99

Baby Spinach 5oz cont- $5

Romaine – $1.89

Romaine Hearts  3 pack – $2.99

$1.79 Green Leaf

$1.59 Iceberg

 $2.99 Dole Salad Mix
Pasta $1.99   PC No Name  900g $2.99  Lancia  900 g $2.79  900g
Pasta Sauce – lowest priced can $0.88   Hunt’s $1.99 Primo $2.29
Cherrios – 450g $2.49  – on sale $5.99 $4.99

This is just a very general idea to demonstrate the prices, food is just as readily available here for a good price as anywhere else. You may find a slight difference, generally seasonal, in the price of some items compared to those in communities in Southern Ontario. However, by increasing the local population, along with the increasing number of local market gardeners and farmers the costs of many fresh fruits, vegetables and meat are and will continue to go down in the future as local competition and availability increases. My personal experience shopping for a large family, I have found little difference between what I spend here shopping in the North compared to the prices I paid in Southwestern Ontario. In reality I find I actually spend less and have more food available at home. Many of the fresh berries that cost a lot in the grocery stores both here and in the south can be freely picked out in the bush here if fresh air and nature don’t scare you. I still have multiple bags of berries picked from the bush around my home this summer in my freezer.

Gas

The price of Gas in our Northern Communities will give you a case of sticker shock, they generally fluctuate between $1.09 L and $1.27 L. The gas stations in Smooth Rock Falls and Moonbeam are generally higher, while Flying J in Kapuskasing usually has the lowest. Over the Christmas holidays (all within the same 24hr period) Kapuskasing prices at Flying J $1.11L, Esso & Shell $1.22 L, Moonbeam $1.25 L and Smooth Rock Falls $1.27 L. Gas prices everywhere are ridiculous, but you have to remember most of your driving in Northern Ontario will be highway or country driving which obtains a MUCH better L/Km consumption rate than city driving.

Just as an aside about the safety of our local roads. Having driven all of the highways of Canada and the United States as a Professional Transport driver, as well as those in Europe along with country back roads, and pot holed city streets. I can comfortably say our Northern Highways are extremely well maintained, and generally very safe. Winter driving here is not as plagued as southern roadways with blowing and drifting snow  producing poor visibility thanks to the wind barrier created by the forests. Not only that but local’s generally have enough sense to stay home when the weather and driving conditions are poor.

Phone & Internet

Eastlink – $132.95 per month for Unlimited Wifi and Full Featured Home Phone
Northerntel– $ 85.88 per month for Unlimited Wifi and Full Featured Home Phone
Neotech – $39.95 – $94.95 per month depending on speed for Unlimited Wifi (No Phone)

There are a number of others available as well.

Other items

There are a number of side benefits to living up north that locals here take for granted and southerners just never consider. With smaller schools and class sizes, students of all abilities stand a much greater likelihood of receiving scholarships and grants upon graduation from high school. Every student in last years graduating class from KDHS received a scholarhip or grant of one kind or another. The bilingual community will rub off on your kids too, and guess what, that bilingual ability will mean your kids have more employment opportunities which also usually brings a higher income. Jobs requiring qualifications often tend to pay more up here than they do down south. For example the average PSW salary in cities in Southwestern Ontario ranges between $15/hr and $17/hr (Dec 2017) while in Kapuskasing the average pay is over $20/hr.

Car & House Insurance premiums are generally lower than for comparative items in Southern Ontario.

Recreation Activities that directly or indirectly cost $$ to engage in down south can be often be done for free or a substantially lower cost up here. Everything from Hiking, Snowshoeing, Snowmobiling, Skiing, Boating, Camping, Cycling and more can be done for less because the opportunities to do so are generally on your doorstep or a short walk away and can often be done so without entry/usage fees.

As with many small rural communities in Southwestern Ontario, our local communities suffered a tremendous hit with the changing economy. Manufacturing jobs are sparse everywhere and the same is true here, low skill entry level jobs are starting to pick up again as our local communities have gotten themselves at the forefront of new industries. (See Medical Marijuana Plant bringing 60+ jobs to Kapuskasing in 2018) However, good paying, stable employment for professionals, skilled trades and other qualifications are booming in our communities and many jobs continuously go unfilled. And just like many of those small southern towns that have seen the chain stores come and go from their communities only to have a new generation of young and creative entrepreneurs move into create vibrant new town centres, our local communities are in the same position offering tremendous opportunities for entrepreneurs to start up businesses of all sizes and varieties at costs that simply can’t be matched.

All of your basic needs are covered here and you can get them for pretty much the same prices that you would pay in Southern Ontario Communities. Just about anything else can be ordered online or purchased in Timmins.

If you can’t live without bright lights, busy streets, and crowded shopping malls then yeah, the North probably isn’t for you.

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