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With the Bank of Canada’s recent decision to raise its key interest rate, and the average price of a home rising year-over-year, many Canadians say they are struggling to afford housing. As a result, some have decided to relocate to countries where they will pay less for accommodation and other essential items.
One of those people is Roland Cameron from Hamilton, Ont. Cameron and his wife arrived in Barbados on July 10 and plan to live there permanently. The couple had considered living in other countries before settling on Barbados, where Cameron’s father’s side of the family lives. In search of a lower cost of living, the couple hopes to make the value of their dollar go further, Cameron said.
“The fundamentals of why we’re paying so much for stuff doesn’t make sense,” the 48-year-old business owner told CTVNews.ca in a telephone interview on June 12. “We would always come up with more income, but new costs would pop up.
“I’m done with Canada.”
Cameron is one of several people who wrote to CTVNews.ca about settling outside of Canada due to the high cost of living. Although data from Statistics Canada shows there are more people immigrating to the country than there are emigrating, Canadians such as Cameron are permanently leaving the country every day. Statistics show that one emigrant will leave Canada every 20 minutes or so.
High housing costs played a key role in Cameron and his wife’s decision to leave Canada, he said. For his four-bedroom, two-bathroom home in Ontario, Cameron’s monthly mortgage payment was about $5,500, he said.
But in Barbados, Cameron is renting a three-bedroom, three-bathroom home in Saint Philip for slightly more than $3,000 per month. The house spans about 2,300 square feet and includes a pool.
Roland Cameron is renting a three-bedroom, three-bathroom home in Saint Philip, Barbados after he and his wife decided to move to the Caribbean country. (HANDOUT)
According to Numbeo, an online database where users can share information related to the cost of living in various countries, grocery items such as milk, bread and eggs are more expensive in Barbados than in Canada. Despite this, the couple hopes to save money in other ways. For utilities such as electricity, water and gas, for example, Cameron expects to pay about $250 per month in Barbados, compared to a monthly payment of $593 while living in Hamilton.
Like many Canadians who reached out, Cameron said he hopes the move will have a positive impact on his overall quality of life, allowing him to generate more disposable income to spend on recreational activities and eventually growing his family. Cameron said he and his wife had held off on having children while living in Canada, but plan to revisit the idea now that they’re living in Barbados.
“We see that we have better opportunities for us somewhere else [compared to] what Canada seems to be able to provide for us moving forward,” he said.
Roland Cameron and his wife arrived in Barbados on July 10. (HANDOUT)
‘DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SURVIVING AND LIVING’
Steve Thurrott, who is originally from Ottawa, also decided to leave Canada in March 2020 because of the high cost of living. More than three years after leaving, Thurrott is now visiting Alberta before he and his wife permanently settle in Cambodia.
“I was in Banff and a little restaurant by the lake wanted $17 for a hotdog,” Thurrott told CTVNews.ca in a telephone interview on July 4. “I just don’t understand how people survive here.”
The 45-year-old veteran receives military and disability pensions, following his medical release from the Canadian Armed Forces in 2020. But this money was barely enough to afford his monthly expenses while living in Canada, he said. After visiting Mexico, the Philippines and Alberta, Thurrott and his wife plan to move to Cambodia, where the cost of living is “far more affordable” compared to Canada, he said.
Starting in August, Thurrott and his wife will live in a three-bedroom, three-bathroom home with a pool while paying $300 per month in rent, he said. Meanwhile, in Canada, the average price to rent a one-bedroom unit is $1,837, based on the latest report from Rentals.ca.
While living in Cambodia, Steve Thurrott and his wife will stay in a three-bedroom, three-bathroom home with a pool while paying $300 per month in rent. (HANDOUT)
According to Numbeo, the average price of food and transportation in Cambodia is generally cheaper than it is in Canada. Grocery items such as a dozen eggs and a loaf of bread, for example, cost less in the Asian country. Additionally, the price of a meal at an inexpensive restaurant in Cambodia can be as low as $3 per person, said Thurrott, who visited the country earlier this year.
Meanwhile, in Canada, grocery prices have risen 9.1 per cent year-over-year, according to the latest inflation data from Statistics Canada. When looking at the country’s overall annual inflation rate, this figure currently stands at 2.8 per cent. Although this represents a drop from the 8.1 per cent recorded in June 2022, inflation levels are still higher than the Bank of Canada’s two-per-cent target.
In terms of transportation in Cambodia, a short trip via tuk-tuk, a three-wheeled motor vehicle, can cost as little as $1 while a taxi ride over longer distances can cost as much as $50, although prices can be negotiated, Thurrott said. Purchasing a new or used car, however, tends to be more expensive in Cambodia than in Canada, he said.
Steve Thurrott and his wife in Mexico. The couple plans to move to Cambodia in August. (HANDOUT)
Aside from mandatory expenses, the cost of products and services that aren’t essential, such as a trip to the movie theatre or going on a scenic tour, are also less expensive in Cambodia compared to Canada, Thurrott said. Being able to do more of these recreational activities has greatly improved his quality of life, he said.
“When all of these other extra costs are so much cheaper, the quality of life that that brings is huge,” he said. “There’s a difference between surviving and living.”
FATHER OF TWO NO LONGER SEES CANADA AS THE ‘END GOAL’
Shane Baetz, who grew up near London, Ont., began working in the Philippines in 2011. About a decade later, during the COVID-19 pandemic, he returned to Canada with his wife and two children. He had been laid off at the time and his family was considering permanently relocating to Canada, he said.
But as his family looked for a new home, they saw average prices were rapidly rising. By February 2022, the national average price of a home peaked at $816,720, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association. Looking at rising home prices in London, Ont. and the Greater Toronto Area, Baetz said he didn’t know if it made financial sense for his family to stay in Canada.
“Houses were going up, like, hundreds of thousands of dollars within months,” the 48-year-old told CTVNews.ca in a telephone interview on July 5. “It was shocking.”
Shane Baetz with his wife and two daughters. (HANDOUT)
Baetz was also worried about whether his daughters, aged nine and 12, would eventually be able to afford homes themselves, he said. Although the national average price of a home has dropped since February 2022, the latest CREA data shows an annual increase between June 2022 and June 2023.
“I always felt like my daughters were going to have a better life in Canada but I wasn’t seeing that anymore,” he said. “It’s sad to no longer perceive Canada as an end goal.”
Rising home prices ultimately led Baetz and his family to return to the Philippines in March 2022, he said. They now rent a three-bedroom, three-bathroom condominium in Manila for about $4,000 per month, he said.
Although leaving Canada has made it difficult to spend time with his relatives, Baetz plans to continue living in the Philippines with his wife and daughters, he said. There, he is able to provide them with greater financial stability and a better quality of life, he said.
“The list of reasons to stay in the Philippines is probably longer than the list of reasons to move back to Canada,” said Baetz. “The future feels like it’s brighter.”
It’s not uncommon for Canadians to settle in countries with a low minimum wage, said Tsur Somerville, an associate professor of strategy and business economics at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business. For those who have generated income while living in Canada, it is easier to make this money go further, he said.
“If I take my wealth that I’ve accumulated in Canada and then move to someplace where incomes are much lower and wages are much lower, then everything is going to be a much lower price,” Somerville told CTVNews.ca in a telephone interview on June 13.
Countries such as Cambodia and the Philippines have minimum wages that are lower than the base salary earned by workers in Canadian provinces and territories. In the Philippines, for example, minimum wage is about $14 per day. In Canada, employees can make at least $104 per day, with the minimum wage ranging from $13 to $16.77 per hour depending on the province or territory.
FIRST-TIME HOMEBUYERS AND RETIREES CONSIDER LEAVING CANADA
Several Canadians also wrote to CTVNews.ca about plans to leave Canada in the near future, including Andre Fortier, who is looking to purchase his first home.
Fortier, who is currently renting an apartment in Toronto for about $1,600 per month, said he is considering moving to Colombia, where his partner is from. It is there that he hopes to purchase a home, as he does not see himself being able to afford a property in Canada.
“I’ve been contributing in this country all of my life, I feel completely cheated,” the 59-year-old told CTVNews.ca in a telephone interview on June 12. “I’m nowhere near where I thought I was going to be by the time I’m 60, and it’s not from the lack of trying.”
Although average home prices may be cheaper outside of major urban hubs such as Toronto, Fortier said he has been struggling with finding full-time employment outside the city. If he were to stay in Canada during his retirement years, money from his pension would barely cover his rent, he said.
During a visit to Colombia in December, Fortier saw homes for sale between $50,000 and $100,000, he said. He and his partner are now looking at moving to Colombia in two years’ time, and plan to live there permanently.
Andre Fortier is considering moving to Colombia, where his partner is from. (HANDOUT)
“The cost of living here is exponential to what it is there,” he said. “If I stay in Canada … I’m going to be absolutely broke.”
Based in Mission, B.C., Leslie Dunn is also considering moving to another country. The semi-retired 57-year-old hopes to purchase a home in Mexico and split her time between both countries throughout the year.
Research conducted by Far Homes, a real estate website that helps foreigners purchase properties in Mexico, shows an increasing number of Canadians have been migrating there since 2020. Data from the Mexican government shows that 1,032 temporary resident cards were issued to Canadians in 2020, compared with 3,160 cards issued in 2022, according to a report from Far Homes.
Recent surveys conducted by the company show a significant factor behind this trend is the desire for a lower cost of living. Dunn said this is one of the main reasons behind her decision to settle in Mexico. Rising average home and rent prices in Canada are especially concerning to her, along with the elevated cost of food, she said.
“The cost of living is expensive [in Canada],” Dunn told CTVNews.ca in a telephone interview on June 22. “Housing rates pretty much everywhere are on the incline [and] I find that there’s a lot of people that are house poor.”
Leslie Dunn hopes to purchase a home in Mexico and split her time between both countries throughout the year. (HANDOUT)
Based on recent trips to Mexico, Dunn said the price to purchase an average condominium is about $125,000, while the cost of a detached house can be about $400,000. She recently offered to buy a four-bedroom townhouse for about $180,000 in the town of Puerto Morelos, she said. Property taxes for the 2,700-square-foot home would have been just under $100 per year.
Although the deal did not go through, Dunn said she and her partner continue to look for homes to either buy or rent in Mexico.
HOW INCREASED SUPPLY CONTRIBUTES TO HOUSING AFFORDABILITY
Canadians, along with residents of countless other countries, continue to struggle with affordable housing amid a cost of living crisis, Somerville said.
“Rent and mortgage payments have gone up a lot more than incomes, particularly in last two to three years,” said Somerville, referring to Canada.
Although average home prices have largely fallen from their peak in February 2022, they haven’t decreased enough to offset the higher mortgage payments brought about by the Bank of Canada’s interest rate hikes, Somerville said.
Additionally, while leaving Canada to move to a lower-income country may seem like a good way to save money, this could have unintended consequences for those foreign communities, with ripple effects that may not be “unambiguously positive,” Somerville said.
In regions that see high levels of relocation by wealthy homebuyers, for example, if the existing housing supply does not meet demand, this can drive up average home prices in these areas, Somerville said.
“Your ability to pay more for housing … can have negative local effects,” he said.
Increasing Canada’s home supply is key to ensuring more affordable housing, according to a report released by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation in 2022. The corporation has estimated that Canada’s housing stock will increase by 2.3 million units between 2021 and 2030. However, an additional 3.5 million homes will need to be built to ensure housing affordability in Canada.