Moving to Toronto
Canada’s largest metropolis sits on the north shore of Lake Ontario less than 20 miles (by boat) from the US border. It was first a British settlement, founded in 1793 as the Town of York. It was later incorporated as the City of Toronto in 1834.
The city has since flourished, taking advantage of its excellent location for trade, business, education and its steady supply of immigrant labour to become Canada’s economic hub by the 1980s - a status which it retains to this day.
Architecturally Toronto is a mixed bag - mid-19th century churches, pubs and banks which survived the Great Fire of 1904 stand alongside modern structures like the CN Tower, which held the title of the worlds tallest freestanding structure until 2007. The city’s culture is similarly diverse, incorporating elements from the population’s European, Asian, African, Caribbean and Latin American heritages to create a constantly changing tapestry of music, art and cuisine.
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High living standards are augmented by excellent public transport (the city is equipped with a subway system, streetcars, trains and buses), world class education (there are 5 universities including York and the University of Toronto) and top quality healthcare (there are 20 public hospitals). The burgeoning economy centres around financial services, media, telecommunications and IT.
Cold winters prompt Torontonians to hunker down in cosy theatres, restaurants or sports bars while the blazingly hot summers allow residents to enjoy the many open spaces, parks, sporting venues and, of course, the 46km of shoreline that includes beaches, bluffs and the Toronto Islands.
All of which explains why Toronto has the second highest foreign born population globally. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2013 study named Toronto as the fourth most liveable city in the world.
The Job Market
As Canada’s largest city, Toronto offers many job related opportunities. It is recognized as the business and financial capital of the country.
Toronto is home to about 90,000 businesses. Top employers include Manulife Financial, Magna International and the iconic Hudson’s Bay Company. Communication giants like Bell Media and Rogers Communications are also situated in Toronto.
Amongst the most important industries in the city are those related to the financial and banking sectors. Toronto is the third largest financial centre in North America, behind only New York City and Chicago. Toronto is home to the headquarters for five of Canada’s largest banks, as well as numerous insurance companies, credit unions and pension funds.
The Toronto Stock Exchange, also known as the TSX, is based in Toronto. It is located in the Exchange Tower in the heart of Toronto’s financial district. The TSX is one of the world’s largest stock exchanges.
As English is the official language most spoken here, most jobs require that you speak and write it fluently. There are, however, many opportunities for those who speak other languages – Toronto boasts an impressive number of bilingual or multilingual job openings. With its incredible diversity, it’s a great city for expats to find jobs.
Toronto’s unemployment rate is currently at 7 percent. Canada’s overall unemployment rate sits at 6.8 percent, just below Toronto’s current rate.
Living in Toronto is expensive. Torontonians pay more for housing, transportation and entertainment than most Canadians. Luckily, healthcare is relatively inexpensive here, as it is covered by OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan). If you are new to Ontario, you’ll need to meet the requirements and apply for coverage; most services and hospital visits will then be free. Many employers also offer health insurance plans to cover some or all of the cost of prescription medication.
A meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant (3 courses) costs an average of $75. Stopping off for a beer after work at your favorite pub costs about $7. Grocery costs here are comparable to other big Canadian cities. For example, a loaf of fresh bread costs on average $2.57, one kilo of apples about $3.37 and one kilo of chicken breasts about $12.66. Internet fees average $48.18 per month.
Toronto’s real estate is amongst the most expensive in Canada. It’s hard to find affordable option unless residents are willing to live outside of the city and commute in for work. Housing prices have been on the rise for the last few years, and they are still trending upwards. Due to the high costs and size of the city, most expats moving to Toronto rent for the first year or more.
Toronto’s vacancy rate is currently hovering around 2 percent. Rent is more expensive in Toronto than most Canadian cities. A one bedroom apartment costs an average of $1,187 per month. A two bedroom costs $1,465 and a three bedroom averages $1,643 monthly. If you prefer to rent a condo, you will pay an average $2,450 for a two bedroom unit. Renting a townhouse or single family home is even more expensive in most parts of the city. With even higher real estate prices and talk of an upcoming housing bubble, renting is often a more affordable option when moving to Toronto.
When it comes to buying a home, the latest numbers from the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) are clear – housing prices are sky-high. For the month of March 2015, the average sale price of homes in the Greater Toronto Area came in at $613,933. Detached, single family homes sold for an average $787,388, semi-detached for $562,353 and townhomes for $464,515. The cost of buying a condo was also up, averaging $372,827. Lower prices in the suburbs are reflected in the above averages. For those looking to buy a detached home close to the downtown core, it’s getting hard to find listings under 1 million dollars.
Since Toronto is such a big metropolis, those moving to the city might want to consider renting first. Once established at work and familiar with the city’s neighbourhoods, it’s easier to decide if home ownership makes sense.
- Art & Design / Queen Street West: Home to the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, and full of cafes, clubs and restaurants.
- Chinatown: 300,000 Chinese Canadians live in Toronto. Chinatown is bustling and colourful, with teahouses, shops, markets, restaurants and noodle houses.
- Little Italy: Vibrant nightlife of coffee bars, pool halls, night clubs and eateries adjoining wine bars that are perfect for people-watching.
- The Beaches: Toronto is built alongside a lake, with a beach and promenade. The Beaches neighbourhood is popular among young families.
- Leslieville: Area known for antique and vintage furniture and clothing.
- Mirvish Village: Restaurants, art galleries and bookstores, in an area named after Honest Ed Mirvish, the man who rescued and gave new life to the area’s old buildings. (He rescued London’s Old Vic theatre, too.)
- Bloor Yorkville: Affluent district for luxury shopping and being pampered in hotels and spas.
- Danford / Greektown: Bakeries, restaurants, shops and pubs. Mostly Greek, but becoming more diverse.
Cost of Moving
Toronto is well located for transport, as it’s on the Quebec-Windsor shipping corridor. Easy access to rail and cargo shipping helps lower moving costs. Here are a few estimates for the cost of moving to Toronto for the average family.
|From London||£489 and £522|
|From Paris||£586 and £627|
|From New York City||£2,708 and £2,894|
|From San Francisco||£3,449 and £3,687|
|From Sydney||£5,909 and £6,316|
|From Dubai||£5,413 and £5,787|
|From Beijing||£3,234 and £3,457|
Toronto has a vibrant and exciting nightlife. With its seemingly endless number of nightclubs, theatres, concert halls, pubs and patios, there’s always something to do and somewhere new to try out.
The Entertainment District in downtown Toronto is the best spot to hang out. It is home to some of the city’s biggest attractions, including the CN Tower, the Steam Whistle Brewery and the new Ripley's Aquarium of Canada. TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival is held every September, and Hollywood takes over the city. Whether you love to go dancing, go to concerts or simply try a new craft beer, you’ll love the diversity of Toronto’s nightlife.
Sports fans can take in an NHL hockey game or a Toronto Raptors basketball game at the Air Canada Centre. Baseball fans can cheer on the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre. Theatre lovers can go see a musical at the Princess of Wales Theatre or the Royal Alexandra Theatre.
Schools and Education
In Canada, education is the responsibility of each province. Toronto schools therefore follow the Ontario curriculum. There are hundreds of elementary and high schools throughout the Greater Toronto area. The Toronto District School Board, the largest in the region, caters to English speaking students. 27 percent of its students were born outside of Canada, making it quite culturally diverse. There are also publicly funded schools for Catholic students as well as Francophones.
The majority of students attend publicly funded elementary and high schools. The Ontario school system ranks amongst the best in the world. As for specialized programs, there are international schools, private schools, outdoor education… Toronto schools offer just about every program under the sun.
For post-secondary education, Toronto is home to some of the largest universities in the country. According to the 2015 Maclean’s University Rankings, the University of Toronto ranked second in Canada for its medical/doctoral programs. Ryerson and York University, both in Toronto, tied for eighth overall. There are also many private colleges and trade schools in the city.
Ranking Against the World
In 2015, Toronto came in first place in the Economist’s best place in the world to live. The Economist Intelligence Unit named Toronto the 8th in their Safe Cities Index. The city came in 12th in the Sustainable City Index, the highest rank of any Canadian city. In 2014, Forbes named Toronto as the 10th most influential city in the world. It was also the 4th most liveable city according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.
Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. With a population of over 5 million in the Greater Toronto Area, there are over 140 different languages spoken here. There are ethnic neighbourhoods throughout the city, like Chinatown, Little Italy, Little India and Greektown.
A Day in the Life
What is it really like to live in Toronto? Well, it all depends on where you live, work and play. As a young professional, you might live in a trendy downtown condo, where you wake up every morning to a breathtaking view of the harbour front. After a quick workout in the building’s fitness centre, it’s time to throw on your power suit and grab a latte on your short walk to work. After work, you can stroll to the market to pick up some fresh fruit or meet some friends at your favorite pub. Being in the core means you don’t need a car – everything is accessible on foot, by subway or by streetcar.
Maybe you have a young family and prefer to live away from the downtown core. In your suburban semi-detached, you wake up the kids and get them ready for the school bus. If it’s winter, it takes time to bundle up the kids in their snowsuits, tuques and mittens! Once on the GO train to work, you sit back and catch up on the day’s news. Being in the ‘burbs means your neighbourhood is green, spacious and family friendly. In the warmer months, you likely spend your weekends hiking and biking on local paths, or enjoying one of the city’s many festivals.