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Cost of living: New study suggests rent outpaces income

Four of the five most expensive cities on either side of the border when it comes to cost of living versus income are located in Canada, a new study shows.

Data released by Canadian insurance provider PolicyAdvisor suggests that New York City, Mississauga, Ont., Vancouver, Hamilton, Ont., and Toronto are the most unaffordable places to live in either country.

The study examined the 10 most populous cities in each country and compared the average cost of eight common necessities, items and services: a cinema ticket, a restaurant meal, a bottle of water, a cappuccino, a one-month gym membership, a one -way ticket on transit, a monthly pass on transit, and one month’s rent.

After comparing the costs, the study also factored in the average income of the residents of each city.

“This data contains some surprising results, as even though some major cities in North America might be perceived as having lower living costs, when factoring in the average salary in the area, it’s not as clear cut,” a spokesperson for PolicyAdvisor said in a press release on Thursday.

THE MOST EXPENSIVE CANADIAN CITY

According to the study, Mississauga is the most unaffordable city in Canada, and the second-most unaffordable major metropolitan area in both Canada and the US

Mississauga has the third most expensive public transit of the cities studied, following New York City and Toronto, with a monthly transit pass costing $131. It also has the third most expensive rent in Canada, after Vancouver and Toronto, at an average of $2,117 per month.

But what makes it unaffordable, according to the study, is the average net salary of its residents.

Ranking 17th out of 20 cities, Mississauga residents take home an average of $4,168.70 per month. This means a person making the average amount of money and paying the average amount of rent would be spending nearly 51 per cent of their take-home pay on the cost of housing.

RISING RENT, LOW WAGES IMPACT AFFORDABILITY

Third on the list of most expensive cities in the US and Canada is Vancouver, which earns the bronze in unaffordability for many of the same reasons as Mississauga.

Vancouver has only the eighth-most expensive rent of the 20 cities but is the first Canadian location to appear on that list, preceded by New York City, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Jose, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Dallas.

The west coast city also ranks toward the middle of the list in other metrics, including the cost of transit and cappuccinos.

But according to the study, what makes Vancouver especially unaffordable is the percentage of take-home pay that rent takes up.

The average net salary in Vancouver is $4,952.55 according to the study, but the average Vancouver rental unit costs $2,253.98, nearly 46 per cent of take-home pay.

The same trend can be seen in the fourth city on the list: Hamilton, Ont. While the city has relatively low average costs for things like eating a meal out ($18.09) or a cappuccino ($4.52), the average monthly rent is $1,610.25, which eats up more than 42 per cent of the average Hamiltonian’s net salary, at $3,824.35.

The study also notes that the average cost of a monthly transit pass in Hamilton is more than twice as much as a pass in San Antonio, Texas ($112.20 and $49.47, respectively).

Rounding out the top five most expensive cities is Toronto. With high costs in transit (the second highest overall at $156) and rent (the ninth highest overall at $2,134.44, and the second highest in Canada) outpacing its comparatively low income ($5,138.57, ranking 13th overall).

“Rents were already rising in a lot of the major markets in Canada,” Paul Danison, content director of Rentals.ca, told CTVNews.ca on Wednesday in a telephone interview. “But now you add rising interest rates [and] the out-of-control inflation going on, and rents right now are just going through the roof.”

THE COST OF HAVING FUN

While the cost of essentials may be less affordable in Canada, those who do have some disposable income will find that, on average, entertainment and lifestyle costs are actually cheaper in most Canadian metropolitan cities than they are in the US

According to the study, the most expensive average movie ticket in Canada costs about $16 in Vancouver – still significantly cheaper than in New York City, where a ticket will cost you more than $23.

A fancy java will also set Canadians back less than Americans. The most expensive average cost of a cappuccino in Canada can be found in Edmonton at $5.15 per cup. In the US, the most expensive average cup can be found in Phoenix, at $6.69.

For those heading back to restaurants after two years of the pandemic, the most expensive average cost of a meal out in Canada can be eaten in Ottawa at $25.12, placing it at 5th overall. In the most expensive city overall, New York, an average meal out will set you back $32.54.

And for Canadian fitness buffs, the average cost of a month-long gym membership is most expensive in Calgary, coming in at $81.70 and ranking third on the list of Canadian and US cities overall.

Here’s the full list of the most expensive major cities in the US and Canada:

1. New York City

2.Mississauga

3.Vancouver

4.Hamilton

5.Toronto

6.Los Angeles

7.San Diego

8. Chicago

9. Ottawa

10. Montreal

11.Winnipeg

12. Philadelphia

13.Phoenix

14. San José

15. Brampton

16.Dallas

17. San Antonio

18.Houston

19.Edmonton

20.Calgary


With files from Jennifer Ferreira

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