Where can I move that is near Toronto, but cheaper and better to live?
April 22, 2011 10:55 AM   Subscribe

I'm not sure I want to live in Toronto anymore, but I want to stay *near* Toronto. Where can I go?

I have lived in Toronto most of my life and overall enjoy the city, but it's quite expensive and lately I have come to realize that I could probably have a very nice---and much cheaper---life elsewhere. Additionally, my parents are buying a condo in Florida and will be gone half the year, so my most compelling reason for staying here is now reduced...

Where to go though? I lived in Kingston during university and liked it there, but I am not sure how Kingston would be as a grown-up. Would it be hard to meet people? To make friends? To meet potential romantic partners?

I am not ready to love immediately, but within the next year I want to consider it. Here are some issues that worry me or that I would like taken into account:

- I would like to be within a 2-3 hour drive of Toronto. If there is a family event, holiday etc. I want to be commutable distance to come home for it.

- I currently do not have a car. I am negotiable on this (I don't have a license, so that will need to be taken care of) but if high car payments are going to eat up any savings I might have from lower rent, that will bother me. I would prefer a place with decent enough public transit and/or walkability that if I do need a car, I at least won't have to rely on it for everything.

- I would like home ownership to be an attainable goal. Toronto prices average $400,000+ and you're looking at 300K even for a condo. Please tell me there is someplace I can do better than that!

- I am currently single and would like to meet someone and settle down. I am not sure if it's better to try and do that here in Toronto and then move, or if there is someplace I can move where this is still a possibility. I am 30something and Jewish fwiw.

- On that last point, some sort of Jewish community would be nice but is not required.

Basically, I want to be able to have a nice, and affordable life somewhere, and still be able to come back to the city on holidays. I want to settle down somewhere and build a life. Any ideas?
posted by JoannaC to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Guelph is a pretty great city, and for my friends who live close to the downtown, it's quite walkable. I'm not sure what the Jewish community is like there.
posted by cider at 12:00 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

You may laugh, but have you considered Buffalo? 90 minutes from Toronto. Not the cultural Mecca of your current city, but certainly not bankrupt -- live shows, good restaurants, museums, art, shopping, beautiful parks and architecture - and -- dirt cheap. You can buy a very-good condition 4 BR Victorian house in a nice, stable, city neighborhood for 185-250k US. You can spend twice that and get a palace.

Jewish community -- Yes, but I don't know much about it. Dating? Can't offer much advice there, either, other than I met someone on a dating website soon after moving here and it's working out great.

You'd probably need a car. there is some public transportation here but I wouldn't recommend it.

There's the whole "moving to another country" thing, and we have terrible health care. But at least you'd be accustomed to the weather. you could also commute to a job in Ontario. I work for someone who commutes every day from Niagara-On-the-Lake to buffalo.

that's my Chamber of Commerce-y pitch.
posted by Buffaload at 12:02 PM on April 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

I have family that have lived in Kingston their whole lives, and others that have moved near there recently (Brockville, Howe Island). They all love it, even though some are retired, others are working, and some are raising young families. Any place will require some getting to know new people, but Kingston has pretty lively young-person stuff, so I think it might be easier than other places. And the Go Train can get you into Toronto easily.
posted by ldthomps at 12:27 PM on April 22, 2011

Owen Sound. It's completely walkable (though they do have transit if you prefer), and it's actually a pretty kick-ass little -- but not too little -- town. All the amenities of a big city, without the soul-destroying Torontoness.

I don't know how big the Jewish community is -- though it's not exactly Williamsburg -- but there's a rather old synagogue that's still fairly active.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:39 PM on April 22, 2011

Kitchener-Waterloo is one to look at, if you stick to the urban part. The two downtowns are pretty walkable and transit in the central areas is reasonable and getting a lot better. The downtowns are growing pretty quickly and becoming more interesting with each year, but homes are much cheaper than Toronto; $250-300K can get you a brand new condo or a nice old house in a central area. There is even carsharing if you want to use a car occasionally (disclaimer: I am affiliated with CarShare). Toronto is not that far away by car or Greyhound, and there will be some GO trains from Kitchener to Toronto starting later this year.

There are two universities in town, and a lot of people in their 20s and 30s working for tech companies. I think there is enough interesting stuff going on that meeting people is not hard. Though I don't know what the Jewish community is like - it exists, but is not too visible.

But there's probably a lot of places that satisfy your requirements. Is there something that's more important in a city to you - food, art, music, diversity, parks, etc.?
posted by parudox at 1:37 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have to second the vote for Kitchener-Waterloo. I lived in a small town growing up, then Toronto for a decade, spent a few years in Hamilton and Stoney Creek, and ended up in KW when my husband started working here. I didn't know much about it before we moved - despite knowing a few people here - and I've been very pleasantly surprised. There are all sorts of things going on, year-round, and loads of interesting people/places/events/things, great schools, very family-friendly (but definitely not a city that's solely focused on families, if that makes sense) and it has an interesting vibe of small town and big city combined. The cost of living is more than reasonable and it's definitely possible to get around without a car if you live in the more central areas. We've been very happy here as a married couple, and now with children, and I have attended school and worked here over the past six years. All good.
posted by VioletU at 2:14 PM on April 22, 2011

I love the city, but if I were forced to leave I'd probably take a close look at Hamilton. Houses are cheap, there's a bit of an arts scene and the university gives it some vitality.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 3:14 PM on April 22, 2011

Thanks for the comments! Parudox, I guess what I am looking for is a place with more of a community feel. There is a lot happening in Toronto, but it's so spread out and impersonal. I'd love to find a 'people who want to hang out at X Neighbourhood and do stuff' kind of group, but all the meetup stuff is spread all over the city and some of those places are hard for me to get to. What I loved about Kingston (or at least, about University Kingston circa 1996) was that everything was fairly closeby and self-contained. Events would happen and a) everyone I knew was going and b) everything could easily be gotten to. I do not mind a small-town feel and would in fact probably prefer it. I just want a place that is friendly, affordable and so on. Most of my Toronto-area friends have moved away. I don't have a ton of friends here. So I am okay with having to start a social network over again, because if I stay here I would have to do that anyway.

Someplace with a waterfront would be nice. It is not required, but would be nice.
posted by JoannaC at 5:29 PM on April 22, 2011

I was going to suggest Kingston, but you've already thought of it. Ottawa is beautiful city, too. I don't get the "boring gov't workers" thing. I could live there and never run out of interesting things to do. Anyone know about London? There must be a decent social scene there with Western and Fanshawe and such there.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:54 PM on April 22, 2011

Collingwood is pretty cool in its own way. Fantastic recreational opportunities and it's going to be a big place. Real estate is affordable if you look around or live out of town. Lots of young people because of Blue. Quick to Toronto.
posted by unSane at 6:55 PM on April 22, 2011

Seconding Guelph. One of the places I'd relocate back to Ontario for. Love, love, love that city.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 10:06 PM on April 22, 2011

Someplace with a waterfront would be nice. It is not required, but would be nice.


Ok, Ok, I'll stop now. Good luck on your hunt.
posted by Buffaload at 7:52 AM on April 23, 2011

There's a lot of small-town and fearful-suburbanite attitude in Kitchener-Waterloo (especially Waterloo): it's a significant culture shock for people from the 905 area, much less urban Toronto. Guelph, Oakville/Burlington, and the core areas of Hamilton are worth considering, based on my time living in or interacting heavily with people in those cities.

In 10 years, KW might be a decent urban environment; maybe 5 if the local governments grow a pair, stop infighting, and do what's best for the future growth and urbanization of the area.
posted by thatdawnperson at 9:03 AM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I lived in Guelph for a while and enjoyed it. It is very much a university town which can be either good or bad depending on your point of view. It's does have a funky vibe, like a northern Santa Cruz or something, with all those vet students and marine biologists and life sciences types. I'm not sure how much I'd dig it now but in my late 20s it was pretty darn good.
posted by unSane at 8:21 PM on April 23, 2011

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