Why move to Kitchener Waterloo from the GTA or Toronto? Is relocating right for you? Lots of people seem think so, and it’s become a popular move. Immigration from the GTA and from abroad is has added 70,000 newcomers to the Region of Waterloo’s population in the last decade. Waterloo Region is now the fastest growing metropolitan area in the entire country.
If you’re from the GTA you might think Kitchener Waterloo (KW) is somewhat boring and reserved. While there’s a grain of truth to this sentiment it isn’t a bad thing necessarily. There just isn’t as much to see and do here. KW is tiny compared to Toronto. Kitchener has roughly 260,000 residents while Waterloo comes in at 146,000. The City of Toronto alone is almost 8x bigger.
We have no major league franchises although we do have the Kitchener Rangers, an excellent OHL team that has produced many NHL stars. KW has some good concert venues, big and small, but nowhere near the nightlife that the big city has. There are plenty of great restaurants to choose from. Still, you won’t find blocks and blocks of fun bars and restaurants scattered throughout the neighbourhoods like you do in TO.
What we do have is tons of nature. Get in your car or on your bike and you can be in the countryside in 10 minutes. The Grand River marks the eastern boundary of KW and offers up great fishing, hiking and canoeing. And I really need to get another canoe. I miss paddling the Grand.
The Hydrocut mtb trail system is the most popular in the province and ranks 32nd in the world. I’ve ridden these trails for 40 years. If you ski or snowboard there’s Chicopee. While it is small it will save you the 2 hour drive to Blue Mountain.
Our St. Jacobs Farmers Market is famous and brings tourists from across the province. It’s an indoor/outdoor market and runs Thursday and Saturdays only. It is the largest year-round farmer’s market in Canada and brings in 1,000,000 visitors a year.
I should mention Oktoberfest too. It’s the second biggest beer-fest in the world. Covid cancelled it for 2020 but I’m sure it will be back soon enough. It runs for 2 weeks in the fall in locations throughout KW. If you decide to go, the gold standard for festhallen has always been the Concordia Club. Tickets sell out early.
I spent 15 years driving in and around the GTA for work. Driving west from Scarborough at 3 pm on a Friday was always a treat. I’d be lucky to hit Winston Churchill at 5. The horror of being stuck at the bottom of the 400 in rush hour is still burnt into my brain. And there’s nothing like downtown at 5 trying to get on the Gardiner. I’m sorry, traffic in the GTA sucks pretty much everywhere. I don’t know how people do it.
In Waterloo Region you can get anywhere in KW in 15 minutes or less. This is true for Cambridge as well. A worst case trip from the north end of Waterloo to the south end of Cambridge during rush hour would be 40 minutes. Driving here is relaxed and wonderful.
Toronto has the TTC which is quite good from what my family who have lived in TO tell me. We have the new LRT and bus service here. Some of the newest subdivisions here are poorly served, as one would expect with new neighbourhoods. The LRT construction caused massive disruptions to business and ran behind schdule and over budget but the train has actually been a success. But I wouldn’t say KW was walkable unless you live in the core where the LRT runs.
Income and Housing Costs
Kitchener and Waterloo are wealthy communities, certainly on par with Toronto, Brampton and Mississauga with regard to household income. But home prices here are super cheap by comparison despite feeling very high to the locals.
All cities have crime. And Toronto has twice as many murders per capita as KW. But we are not immune and shootings in KW are up sharply this year. The region has issues with criminal organizations, gangs and drugs that are behind the uptick in gun crime. Even so, Toronto is a very safe city, especially compared to US cities, but not as safe as here in KW. Check out my post on crime if you want to learn more about local crime stats and where the best neighbourhoods are.
Waterloo, with two universities is a very smart city. The city has a higher education rate than even Toronto. Kitchener is a bit more industrial and blue collar. It’s on par with Brampton right now but change is coming. Conestoga College now grants degrees and McMaster, Laurier and UW all have satellite campuses in Kitchener.
KW is Canada’s silicon valley. Google and Blackberry are a couple of well known names in the sector. Academia, the insurance industry and Toyota are major employers too. Manufacturing is still a sizable portion of the economy.
Daycare is a huge monthly expense for many families. Living in KW will save you at least a thousand dollars a year for each kid.
Driving in Toronto and the GTA in general is risky. That’s an opinion many people share and it’s one the insurance industry agrees with. You’ll save a lot of money on insurance living in KW.
Typical Costs Of Living
Groceries, heating, electricity and gasoline are about the same here as in the big city. But long term care homes are considerably more expensive in KW in comparison to Toronto. Real estate commissions are roughly 20% lower than the GTA even if you exclude our much lower home prices. Also, there is no Toronto land transfer tax. Buying or selling a home in KW is tens of thousands cheaper in fees and taxes. Property taxes are higher in KW but valuations in Toronto are higher so you end up more or less even on what you pay.
Why Make The Move?
So why move here to Kitchener Waterloo from Toronto or the GTA? How about affordability, peace and quiet, room to grow, and proximity to nature. The local economy has low unemployment with lots of job opportunities. We’ve got some great schools too. And traffic that’s like an easy Sunday drive; I couldn’t forget that! If you own a home you’ll pocket quite a bit of cash when you sell because of our much lower prices. These are just a few great reasons to relocate. Check out my neighbourhoods pages if you want to learn a bit more. And if you’re homesick for major league sports, concerts or clubs, Toronto is only 90 minutes away. Living in KW, you really can have your cake and eat it too.