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Monday, January 30, 2012

City Tops Most Affordable Housing List

City Still Offers the Best Bang for a Housing Buck

By Beatrice Fantoni, The Windsor Star

Even with housing prices expected to go up slightly in Windsor in 2012, the city still offers the best bang for a housing buck, according to an international survey.

Windsor ranked as the most affordable housing market of any size in Canada according to the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey.

Vancouver, in contrast, was ranked as the second most expensive large market in the world after Hong Kong.

Toronto was ranked 18th most expensive, while Montreal ranked as 23rd most expensive.

The survey suggests that housing in Canada is slowly becoming less affordable, falling behind the U.S. and Ireland in overall ranking.

Now in its eighth year, the survey looks at 325 metropolitan markets in seven countries including Canada, the U.S., New Zealand and Hong Kong. Cities are ranked by dividing median house prices by the gross annual median household incomes.

In Windsor, the median house price is $149,000 and gross annual median household income is at around $67,000.

Real estate agents in Windsor say the majority of their clients tend to be retirees, but there are some rare cases of home buyers who choose to relocate to Windsor specifically for cost reasons.

There are also many people moving back to Windsor after having moved out west and found the cost of living out there to be too high, they say.

"We're definitely seeing an increase," said Mary Morrison, an agent with Valente Real Estate who specializes in relocations from outside Windsor.

Morrison said she worked last year with a client from Vancouver who chose Windsor specifically because he could get a house at an affordable rate.

The man, who she said was about 30 years old, was living in Vancouver and couldn't handle the cost of living out there, so he decided to move to Windsor to look for work and buy a condo.

Morrison also mentioned clients from Surrey, B.C., and Ottawa who are currently house hunting in Windsor.

"It's not just investors anymore," she said.

"Putting money in the bank is one of the main things we hear," she said, describing her clients' motivation for wanting to relocate to Windsor.

Families can sell their place in, say, Toronto and buy a house in Windsor mortgage-free and still have cash to put away.

"It's not surprising at all," Mayor Eddie Francis said. "It's one of the strengths we've identified," Francis said, referring to affordable housing prices in the city.

Francis said Windsor's goal is to become the most affordable and attractive city in Ontario and the city has been promoting itself as such to both businesses and families outside by holding the line on taxes and continuing to offer amenities.

Investors are especially drawn to the city but Francis also cited the case of residents who left Windsor and are now coming back because of the cost of living.

"We have a higher quality of life," Francis added, giving the example of short commutes thanks to a lack of traffic.

The other most affordable cities in Canada included Fredericton and Moncton.

Canada was ranked as the third overall most affordable country for housing prices.

Canada has three "severely unaffordable" housing markets among its major cities and nine "affordable" housing markets.

Detroit was ranked as the No. 1 most affordable large housing market in the U.S. and Saginaw, Mich., was ranked as the topmost affordable market of any size in the country.

Copyright (c) The Windsor Star

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