Moving to the Canada's capital city.
April 18, 2009 11:18 AM   Subscribe

Moving to Ottawa in the Fall. Looking for some apartment/ neighborhood/ living-in-the-area advice - anecdotes welcome!

I'm moving to Ottawa starting in August to attend school, and I'm looking to get a head start on an apartment hunt. I'm not sure what neighborhoods are nice/beautiful/fun in the area, or what to expect when looking for a "good deal". I'm coming from a small English area of Quebec where housing is ridiculously cheap (sometimes in the sub-$300 range), so I realize I have high (low?) standards for cost, and since I'm living on a student budget I'd like to bridge the gap between low-cost living, and nice-area living because I may be there for the next 2-7 years.

I've started my hunt online: (, and decided I'd build a map of apartments I'd like to check out with - this way when I drive down to look at them, I can organize things pretty well.

I realize however, that the best places are probably not advertised online, so this is where you come in Hive Mind: where should I look for off-the-book apartments in Ottawa? Also, if you've lived there before, I'd love to hear your experience with public transit. I have a car but I also have a green heart and would like to avoid using it: would it be worth it to live near a terminal and stash my car for emergencies/special trips, or should I live somewhere in an outskirt and drive to University?

Is the "experimental farm" as sketchy as it sounds to live near?

Also, what can I expect to pay for utilities in the city? I know some apartments include the utilities, so I'm trying to calculate what the cost would be if it's not included.

posted by tybeet to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
Check this place out.

It's not too expensive and I've been in them. They're quiet, great location and the layout for the bachelor apartments are nice.

Good luck.
posted by fantasticninety at 11:54 AM on April 18, 2009

It might actually be out of your budget, but that area of town is nice.
posted by fantasticninety at 11:56 AM on April 18, 2009

It's been a while since I lived in an apartment, so don't have too much to say. Hopefully these bits of info are helpful...

- Neigbourhoods: Ottawa U is near downtown and Sandy Hill which has lots of student housing. Carleton has several neighbourhoods nearby, including the Glebe, which is kind of expensive. Ottawa South can be cheaper. I'm sure others can give more info.

- Experimental farm is not even vaguely sketchy. It's a farm, in the city. I think they experiment on crops / soil / growing conditions. I've not yet seen a mutant cow or sheep wandering around. Lots of people walk / run / bike around the farm, particularly on the weekends when the roads are closed off. The eastern end of it is close to the canal, and you can cross at the locks to get to Carleton, if that's where you're going to school. For housing, The northern side is close to Island Park / Parkdale area, which can be expensive. The western and southern sides have a mix of housing and apartment buildings, some of which I've been in and didn't find any of them sketchy.

- I regularly see apartment notices posted in coffee shops and other community places with bulletin boards. I think all Bridgeheads have noticeboards, as do a lot of health food stores etc. The places I see there often look like better deals than could be found online.

- Transit is ok (other than this winter's 2 month strike), in most areas. Carleton has the O-train running north-south (limited usefulness to most people) and a couple of bus routes, I think. Ottawa U is serviced by many buses running through downtown including the Transitway system. Personally I think you're much more likely to find a deal in student housing areas near the schools, and bike/walk/transit to school, saving the car for emergencies. Rush-hour traffic can be pretty bad on the 417, so I'd avoid the suburbs if you don't want a long commute.
posted by valleys at 11:57 AM on April 18, 2009

On preview what valleys said, but since I typed this out...

Your best bet may be to contact the university. They should have a listing of housing options. You're probably looking at a roommate situation, like 3 people in a townhouse.

Westboro is a great place to live with everything within walking distance, however it's become trendy so prices are up, but it's also a few minutes walk to the transitway.

Sandy Hill area is popular with Ottawa U students, but also those who like to party. But it's also closer to downtown and the Byward Market.

Carleton U, not sure. It's in a nice area being along the canal, which is also saturated with expensive housing, and not close to shops, but there is the O-train, when they're not on strike.

The Experimental Farm area covers a large area but it's pretty much isolated, not many every-day services.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 12:27 PM on April 18, 2009

Where are you going to be going to school? I would try to stay as close to campus as possible. I went to Carleton and never lived more than a few blocks away in Ottawa South, and many of my friends who lived far afield cursed their long treks on those many, many, many insanely cold days.

So yeah, Ottawa South or the Glebe for Carleton, Sandy Hill for Ottawa U.
posted by yellowbinder at 12:28 PM on April 18, 2009

Response by poster: Where are you going to be going to school?

I'll be going to Carleton, and I'm flexible enough to tolerate a 15 minute walk even in the brutal cold (I've been dealing with the harsh Quebec Townships winters for 4 years now).

I regularly see apartment notices posted in coffee shops and other community places with bulletin boards.

Thanks, I think it'd be wise if I took a few weekends here and there to stay in the area and check things out, I'll canvas the cafes when I do.

Rush-hour traffic can be pretty bad on the 417, so I'd avoid the suburbs if you don't want a long commute.

Good to know! It's too bad the "prettiest" apartments are in the suburbs.

So yeah, Ottawa South or the Glebe for Carleton, Sandy Hill for Ottawa U.

Thanks I'll check out Glebe.

I've been looking at apartments on kijiji and craigslist and it seems like 3 1/2s are about the same cost as 4 1/2s (between $600-800 w/utilities) - is it harder to find 1 bedroom apartments than 2 bedroom? There is a huge cost differential between bachelors and 3-or-4 1/2s (they run 450-700) but I don't think I could live in such a small space, I'd get claustrophobic after a while.

Do those prices seem about right for average?
posted by tybeet at 1:00 PM on April 18, 2009

Another option - Quite a few Carleton students also live in the Preston St area. There are quite a few apartments and shared houses on the streets around Champagne / Loretta (think I have the names right). There may be other streets as well. It's a reasonable walk to school (maybe 20min?) around Dows Lake. Preston St with it's pubs and eateries is a good place to be, and you're right on the bike paths. There's buses on Carling, and an O-train stop.

Agree with hungrysquirrels on the awesomeness of Westboro ... as I happen to live and work there. Transit is good, but it is expensive. That's where local listings in coffeeshops might be useful.

Sorry I can't help you with prices.
posted by valleys at 1:23 PM on April 18, 2009

A reasonably nice 1-bedroom top floor was costing me $780. Before that, a 2-bedroom in a cookie-cutter highrise was $1100 plus $60 parking. Before that, yes I've moved a lot, the bachelor was ~$580, but it did cause some cabin fever after a while. Renting a room in a house you're probably looking about $300-350. A lot depends on luck, and shopping around in person.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 4:14 PM on April 18, 2009

I lived in Sandy Hill for three years and loved every minute of it. It's walking distance to both "downtowns," the Byward Market, nightlife (such as it is in Ottawa), the canal (which is both for fun and for getting places quickly, especially if you bike), and multiple tourist-style destinations (Parliament, National Gallery, Chateau Laurier). It's also a cool area filled with foreign embassies and a nice park. I rented a massive one-bedroom half-basement there on Nelson St. for $500/month (all included). There are party areas there, but my spot was very quiet, so investigate the area a bit before you rent.

Note that there is also free transit to Carleton within walking distance of most of the neighbourhood. I was a Carleton student, and the inter-campus shuttle bus was a huge boon to me. (Don't get on the medical campus bus by accident.)

If you want to rent in Sandy Hill, I highly recommend going there and walking the streets to look for "For Rent" signs. Things may have changed since I looked, but 95 per cent of the apartments I looked at, including the one I took, weren't listed online or in the paper.
posted by hayvac at 6:54 PM on April 18, 2009

We just moved to Ottawa in February. We mainly looked at apartments in Sandy Hill because of its proximity to the Byward Market area. We ditched our car so it was important to be close to everything. However, I am extremely impressed with Ottawa transit (we got here after the strike ended) and haven't had any trouble getting anywhere. Sandy Hill is a bit studenty but I find that almost everywhere has a mix of apartment complexes, single family homes, and former single family homes that have been split into two or three apartments. In my opinion, tehre is not a huge difference between most of the neighborhoods. The Glebe and Westboro have commercial strips that are nice. We did most of our searching on Craigslist and the first seven or so apartments we looked at were either not nice or more expensive than we wanted. I think we looked at about 15 in three days until we found one that we really love.

We pay for rental of the hot water heater which is less than $20 every couple of months and for hydro which should be about $50 a month. If I remember correctly, most of the places we looked at included all utilities but hydro.

Also, the bike trails are fantastic here so if you have a bike you can probably avoid having to use a car or transit much.
posted by betsybetsy at 7:10 PM on April 18, 2009

I've lived in Ottawa all my life, as well as attending Carleton while using transit, so hopefully I can help :)

Transit is pretty good, you'll be fine using it as your primary transportation method, as long as you have a book or iPod to take up some time. Carleton has the O-train going through it, and that allows for easy commuting via the transitway from downtown (Bayview station) as well as from South Keys. There are some student houses and apartments around the South Keys area, although I've heard that crime is slightly high around there. The Glebe is a great place to look although a lot of the houses are old (thus creaky/not soundproof). If you don't mind a 20 minute walk, you can live in the Glebe and walk to Carleton with no problems, although there is a bus that goes there too or at least goes past the entrance on Bronson.

Regarding transit: if you want to use it primarily, it's best to situate yourself close to a major station or at least on a major route or walking distance to a major route (95, 96, 97, 85, 86, 118). You don't want to rely on a local bus as they often come every half hour (if they're on time, which often they aren't) and they stop service at a certain time of night.

I strongly recommend finding a place inside the city and using transit versus living outside of the city and commuting in. I lived in Barrhaven for the first year and a half of my university studying, and I commuted in via the bus and it was such a waste of time in the mornings. And being in a car wouldn't be much better, because there's a ton of traffic on the major pipelines after 7:40am. You will also get a better deal on housing when you live in the student housing areas (Glebe, Bronson [right across from the university]) compared to trying to find a good deal in the rest of the city. Oh yes, there's also a few apartments on Prince of Wales and Hogs Back, but those are somewhat old and I'm not sure how much of a deal you could get.

Two bedrooms are more rare here. My last one bedroom was about $800, that was about half an hour-45 minutes to Carleton via the bus. There wasn't really much to do in that area (Canterbury and Arch street) though, so if you prefer a nightlife, go for something in the Glebe or Sandy Hill.

The Experimental Farm is actually a place of immense beauty, no need to be concerned whatsoever. If you like nature, that is the place to live around. They have tons of trees and plants of all types, it's a wonderful place to go have a picnic or study.
posted by Meagan at 4:18 AM on April 19, 2009

I live in the Byward Market. It's nowhere near Carleton, but transit in Ottawa is great. If you don't mind having to bus to school the Market is great. If you get a place in the right location it's not noisy at all, but you're a few blocks from open-air vegetable markets and the best bars and restaurants.
posted by March Hare at 11:47 AM on April 27, 2009

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