Retire in Canada with no car and a disabled daughter - where?
November 24, 2016 7:27 AM   Subscribe

What are some places in Canada that meet the following three needs? 1. Walkable. No car needed for daily life. 2. Affordable. Housing and groceries can be managed on a modest income. 3. Great disability services for kids and adults with developmental disabilities/Down's/FAS/etc.

I'm currently living in downtown Toronto, which has great walkability, good/okay disability services, and horrible affordability. I'm looking for places anywhere in Canada - small towns or big cities.

posted by clawsoon to Work & Money (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Well grimsby comes to mind. if you want smaller grimsby. In grimsby there are lots of small nice affordable places in the downtown area, plenty to walk for food, dining, entertainment. Nice hospital. Medical doctors etc. Loveky area. And very close to hamilton for bigger city services.
posted by chasles at 7:54 AM on November 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Port Credit, in south Mississauga, has great accessibility (and frequent transit to most places you'd need to go). It's not cheap compared to areas outside of the GTA, but you might be able to find a not outrageously priced condo unit, especially if looking at some of the older buildings. (Not sure about the reality of Peel Region's support services on the ground, but found this - apparently there are some favorable changes on the way.)

Hamilton might be worth looking at. I think it's still affordable (and it got a number of ringing endorsements here [had different criteria in that question but answers might be useful to you]). I can't speak for their support services for children and adults with developmental disabilities specifically, but I know that Hamilton Health Sciences offers a wide range of specialist medical and support services difficult to access in the GTA. I think they're slightly better resourced than the GTA for support services (or less competitive).
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:07 AM on November 24, 2016

If you want really good access to services, somewhere in the Golden Horseshoe would work well, staying out of the major (expensive) cities. I have a bit of a soft spot for Hamilton too, having lived there for four years, and I think it might work well, particularly in the west-end near the university. Parts are getting expensive though (e.g. Ancaster). Climate is as mild as it gets in Ontario.

One of the smaller Ontario or Quebec towns along the St. Lawrence might work for you too. Kingston and Cornwall are the biggest in ON, Sherbrooke in the Eastern Townships in QC.

Montreal is hard to beat for the combination of affordability and great access to services and transit too. West Island is still quite English, so living there would not require immediate full bilingualism. Montreal has quite a bit harsher climate than southern Ontario.

Major centres in Alberta and BC are, unfortunately, quite a bit more expensive and the transit options may not be as well-developed.
posted by bonehead at 8:25 AM on November 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

Groceries aren't cheap, but downtown Victoria meets the other criteria. For housing, Capital Regional District has public housing (check on the last day of each month for new vacancies). This is a mix of "market housing" (like paying rent at any other apartment or townhouse) and subsidized housing. You may qualify for subsidized housing, but there is a waitlist and you are out-of-province.

I think it's going to be hard to find a walkable city with cheap rent in Canada, and also a pleasant local culture (where rednecks do not hurl insults at pedestrians from the windows of a pickup truck... take it from me... I've been all over BC as a walker).

Other ideas include Nelson, in the Kootenays and Rossland (south of Nelson).

Vancouver Island has some nice towns, especially Courtenay, but, being on an island, food is going to be expensive. A lot of the towns in the hinterland, however, have problems with drugs.
posted by My Dad at 8:48 AM on November 24, 2016

Maybe St. Catharines? Good transit service, easy to walk to groceries etc depending on where you live. I haven'r lived there in a bit but visit often, so I'm not sure how rent is but I think it is fairly affordable.

Chiming in on Hamilton- great city, lots to do, walkable areas, lots of services but very unafforadble now. Rent has gone up so much in the past few years that it is very difficult to find affordable rent in a building that is both bed bug free and in a safe area. I'm lucky I moved in to my apartment before housing went up, neighbours in same building are paying $200+ more than I am for same or smaller apartments.
posted by Lay Off The Books at 8:58 AM on November 24, 2016

Montreal is walkable and affordable, but I don't know about the disability services. I lived there car free for 10 years and loved it. The language might be an issue, although here is a sizeable English-speaking population, especially in the west. Its possible to get by on basic French, especially if you're not looking for work.
posted by exquisite_deluxe at 9:24 AM on November 24, 2016

Montreal has decent transit, and it's compact and very walkable in summer - but not sure the roads and sidewalks are maintained in a way that would be easy, exactly, for people with accessibility needs to negotiate in winter (depending on what those needs are).
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:32 AM on November 24, 2016

posted by fimbulvetr at 9:43 AM on November 24, 2016 [5 favorites]

Seconding Nelson, or maybe Kaslo.
posted by ananci at 10:10 AM on November 24, 2016

Ottawa? I don't know what the disability services are like, but cost of living is much lower than Toronto and there are lots of parts of it that are quite walkable, and OC Transpo is good (I mean, it's terrible, but for public transit, it's good). The city has a lot of sprawl, and living outside of downtown you'd run into the walkability issue, but it's not that expensive to live even in the core of the city.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:19 AM on November 24, 2016

Ottawa is an anglo version of Montreal in many respects: smaller, similar kind of crappy climate (we've had two lasting snowfalls now). Downtown core is walkable, access to services would be as good as most places in Ontario, and it's nowhere as expensive as TO.

Weather and an immature transit infrastructure would be its major weaknesses from your point of view. It would be mid-range affordable, not Toronto or Vancouver, but hardly the least expensive either.
posted by bonehead at 11:13 AM on November 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Costs of living links:

Ten urban centres compared. (a number of smaller and affordable options here)

A few more

In fact, one to highlight, that hasn't been mentioned yet (surprisingly): Halifax. Consistently comes up as one of the most affordable mid-size centres. Extremely walk-able, nicer climate than Southern Ontario, and very affordable comparatively too, though costs of food and consumable are a bit higher than Ontario. Plus you get to go to bed before everyone else.
posted by bonehead at 11:33 AM on November 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

If no one with better information on relevant disability services than we've offered so far chimes in, would suggest contacting associations and support groups (particularly groups for parents) local to possible target areas to get a better sense of the real deal. (E.g. this one, for BC.)

I'm sure you've already thought of this, just a gentle reminder.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:55 AM on November 24, 2016

I have a nephew who uses Kidsability. He lives in Waterloo, but they service Guelph and Kitchener, both of which have old downtown areas that could be walkable (I've never lived in either, just visited).
posted by girlpublisher at 11:56 AM on November 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Last comment - Kitchener-Waterloo might be a good bet, at least on some points, actually. I've heard from a few people that the tech sector there is booming. Walkability may need improvement. But if COL is down and income is up, perhaps ways around this might be more feasible.
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:01 PM on November 24, 2016

Yet another 'not sure about disability services, sorry,' but, Kingston comes to mind. Quite a pleasant town, not particularly expensive, large swath of the city centre which is very walkable. It's a large enough area, especially with Queen's, that it's not the sort of town where you have to drive to the nearest big city (which would be Ottawa, which is about an hour and a half away and a cheap bus ride) for services.

Kitchener-Waterloo struck me as a little rough around the edges, but I visited four years ago; things may be changing.

Ottawa as already mentioned has lousy weather, but I've spent almost the majority of my life in downtown Ottawa with no car and a modest income.
posted by kmennie at 12:11 PM on November 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Vernon, BC is cheap, walkable and has decent weather (winter is typically over by late Feb - early Mar). Don't know about the disability services.
posted by mannequito at 5:05 PM on November 24, 2016

I don't have a specific city to recommend, but I have a disability and kids with disabilities and I wanted to encourage you to stay within the service area of a major hospital and to be sure that you are with a health authority that allocates enough funding to the particular disability. For example, some places have better mental health funding than others. I have also been told by my doctors to NEVER leave the service area of a teaching hospital, since they tend to be centres of excellence with lots of extra practicum and med students and so on. Having lived in towns of various sizes, I can say that, at least for me, the quality of health care services in a major city is much higher than in areas further out. This difference may actually offset some housing costs, depending on where you choose. That being said, my guess is that the GTA or Victoria might serve well.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 5:07 PM on November 24, 2016 [5 favorites]

from wikipedia:
In 2005, on an episode of The Early Show, Vernon was ranked as one of the top six most desirable communities to retire to in North America by Consumer Reports.[3]
posted by mannequito at 5:07 PM on November 24, 2016

You will likely get the best child disability care in Calgary or Edmonton (there is the most funding for it, anyways). Second, probably Ontario. However, I couldn't possibly recommend Edmonton for affordability or good transit!
posted by bluebelle at 6:43 PM on November 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Kitchener-Waterloo might be a good bet

KW could be a good bet in a couple years, once all the LRT construction is done. Right now it is kind of a mess, making mobility a real problem. Your money will go farther here than in Toronto and I think the area is really poised to grow. I don't use a car much so I walk everywhere but I'd caution you if you look at KW I'd look at the neighbourhoods along the main streets and closer to the downtown/uptown/midtown areas, avoiding any places too close to student housing for the universities or the less walkable suburbs. I know some families with children with a variety of challenges (my wife worked for many years with Extend-A-Family) and I know from their experiences that living here is not without its challenges but most seem happy here.
posted by Ashwagandha at 9:09 PM on November 24, 2016

Nthing Montreal, per a native
posted by andromache at 4:46 PM on November 26, 2016

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