Ottawa vs. Gatineau
October 12, 2014 9:04 AM   Subscribe

Please help this Ontarian decide whether to move across the river.

I moved to Ottawa a year ago and am happy enough with my job to consider plans to settle here in the medium-to-long-term. I’m a late 20s woman currently living alone and working full-time near the University of Ottawa. Renting in Sandy Hill costs me upwards of $1200 for a one bedroom with parking spot. I’ve got a short walk to work, but am also feeling crunched for cash and envious of folks with more space. I speak French and lived in Quebec as a kid, but have lived in English-speaking areas almost exclusively for the past 15 years and am more comfortable in English.

It has occurred to me that housing costs appear to be lower (for buying and renting) on the Quebec side. However, I’ve also heard that provincial income tax rates are a little higher, and that things that Ontarians typically envy about Quebec living (cheap, super-subsidized daycare, cheaper higher-ed, etc.) may not be all they’re cracked up to be.

Do any National Capital Region mefites have any experience (first-hand or anecdotal) about life in Gatineau vs. Ottawa? Most curious about commuting logistics, up-and-coming neighbourhoods, the political culture of Gatineau, and the unexpected hassles/upsides of either city. Thanks!
posted by betafilter to Work & Money (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yep, I've lived in both. I rented a room in Gatineau for some years in the early 2000s. It was OK, but being Anglo really made me stick out. And I say that as someone who speaks French! You may have to put up with more smoking, or older houses with issues - there are a lot of fly-by-nighters offering home handyman services cheap on the Gatineau side but they don't always do a good job and you end up having to either live with it or get it fixed again. I never had to avail myself of daycare or anything like that, but I have friends and coworkers who live on the other side of the river that speak disparagingly of the hospitals. They would far prefer to go to the Montfort on Montreal Road.

That said, the province of Quebec doesn't have the stranglehold on the alcohol market that Ontario does, so you can get beer in the grocery store as well as a wider selection of wines at the SAQ. Things might have changed since I last lived there, but I found the grocery stores less adventurous in stocking international ingredients.

As for the Ottawa side, I rented in Vanier, which is an up and coming place, and the rents were pretty reasonable. Just steer clear of the area between MacArthur Avenue and Montreal Road, that is hinky territory. The bus is quite handy, and takes you to the Rideau Centre, from which you can pretty much go anywhere.

OC Transpo is pretty good, compared to other cities I've lived in, but it does not use the trunk and line system - getting familiar with the website will help you figure out what bus to take to get where you want to go.

In some ways, choosing where to live depends on the extent to which you're willing to commute. You'll save $$ by going further out of the downtown core, but then you need a bus pass. If finances are a concern, you'll need to ensure that your rent savings aren't totally being eaten up by the bus pass.
posted by LN at 10:06 AM on October 12, 2014

The traffic on the bridges is pretty bad at rush hour.
posted by kmennie at 10:23 AM on October 12, 2014

I haven't lived in Gatineau before but I have a number of friends who have, and all of them chose to move back to the Ottawa side after a few years, mostly because it was taking them so long to get to work, especially during rush hour in the morning, and was also a hassle to go out with friends at night (buses are terrible so they had to drive, which meant cabbing a long way home or not drinking). So unless you work in Gatineau and don't need to come over to Ottawa much, it might be more of a pain logistically than you think.

Sandy Hill is one of the most expensive areas because there's so much demand from students. I'd suggest looking elsewhere in the city, either somewhere close to the transitway if you rely on the bus, or if you have a car, you have a lot more options. Vanier might work for you too, depending how close your work is and how far you want to walk, but it's not close to the transitway so the buses can be a bit of a pain.

You don't say if this is an option for you, but I'd suggest looking into getting a roommate or two - bachelors and 1-bedrooms are really expensive in Ottawa, but bigger apartments and houses aren't much more, so you can find a room in a good location for 500-600$ without much trouble. I was looking into all the options last fall and reluctantly ended up going the roommate route, since I was having trouble finding a decent apartment for under 1000$ and now pay 500$ plus ~100$ in utilities, with 2 roommates in a nice townhouse in an absolutely ideal location for me. And it's really not too bad if you have decent roommates.
posted by randomnity at 12:25 PM on October 12, 2014

It's pretty unfortunate, but right now the STO is really set up to cater to commuters from the suburbs. The service where I live (old Hull) is awful. The housing stock is also pretty bad: negligent landlords, patched-up repairs, etc. There is such a thing as a "cool Hull", but there are a lot of impracticalities still.

Some of my pain, however, is caused by not having a car. With a car, a carefully chosen location (bus routes, access to services) could be fairly nice, especially if you have the skills/time to do repairs yourself.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 4:47 PM on October 13, 2014

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