Ottawa’s housing market may be looking more and more like Toronto’s, but the city itself has a completely different vibe. Of course, it’s a lot smaller, with just under a million residents as of 2016. That alone is enough to make it feel friendlier and more accessible, but they’re doing a lot of things right that will help the city retain that feel even as it grows.
It’s a more pedestrian-friendly city than Toronto, but that isn’t saying much. We prioritize cars, and anytime a planner or politician threatens to do otherwise, we quickly let them know we won’t stand for it. They also prioritize outdoor space more, with just about every downtown condo boasting balconies and terraces. They’re much less susceptible to the lure of the sleek glass tower and as a result, often offer a more vibrant streetscape.
The ByWard market area makes for a perfect stroll/munch/window shop anytime, with lots of that European charm you find in Montreal and Quebec. And it has Beaver Tails, which, let’s face it, are delicious. Handmade earrings and flower-child garb, knitted finger puppets for the kids, all manner of tchotchke — of course, they’ve thoughtfully included myriad vendor stalls to help separate you from your money, as all good market districts do. The bakeries are excellent, chocolate shops plentiful, and all manner of bars and lounges, many with patios, offer a good spot for people-watching and thirst-quenching.
Lansdowne Park is another great spot for strolling and spending, there are a couple of pavilions and an arena, and there’s a shuttle to downtown. This time of year, a walk along Dows Lake at Commissioners Park yields views of thousands of tulips, the capital’s official flower. The Parliament Buildings are still inspiring, regardless of what’s going on there these days.
Parking even in the core, if not ample, is at least reasonably priced, with most spots free on Sunday. Really good restaurants are abundant, and run the gamut from tapas to Turkish, brunch to burritos. Nearby suburbs like Manotick give the monied who don’t want to live right in the city lovely options with million-dollar-plus water views.
Reports this spring suggest a lack of supply similar to ours is plaguing the city, with the Ottawa Real Estate Board (OREB) reporting in March that listings were down 21% on single-family properties and 26% on condos in February, compared to the year prior (which doesn’t include new construction homes).
In April, the board reported an average price for residential properties that month of $455,212, up 4.2% from the year prior. Condominium prices averaged $269,294, up just 0.3% from the year prior. Condo sales were up 22% year-over-year. If their experience mirrors ours, condo prices will catch up in the next few years as a shortage of serviceable land continues to hinder development. Let’s hope what’s to come is as pretty as many of the condos there now.
The shortage of resale listings is contributing to a seller’s market, where more than a fifth of the homes sold above listing in March, according to the board, and properties are selling in 11 fewer days than they were last year. OREB president Ralph Shaw told CBC that a booming high-tech sector, steady federal government jobs and a low vacancy rate were leading more people to the housing market. In the same story, Josh Gordon, an assistant professor at Simon Fraser University who studies housing markets in Canada, said the GTA’s expensive market was driving some buyers to Ottawa, either because they’d been priced out in Toronto or were cashing in here and heading to the capital.
Ottawa is the market to watch this year, and if you’ve got the ability to telecommute, are an entrepreneur, sold your lucrative GTA home and retired, or are looking for a change, you should be watching it carefully.