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Urban living costs too much for half in the GTA: Pembina Survey

A new survey from the Pembina Institute and RBC says the stereotypical middle-class Canadian dream of owning a suburban home with a two car garage, a plush lawn, and a pool in the backyard is dead in favour of convenient urban living. But only half of those questioned felt that way when money was factored into their decision.

An overwhelming number of potential Greater Toronto Area (GTA) homebuyers said they would turn down a detached home in the suburbs for a smaller urban accommodation where they can walk to stores and restaurants, access rapid transit, and keep their commute to work short.

The online survey of 1,014 residents found this sentiment was strongest, at 84 percent, with potential buyers aged 18 to 34, followed by the 60 plus demographic at 81 percent. Perhaps most surprising though, were the 60 percent of families surveyed with three or more children that rejected the prospect of a larger home in a car-dependent suburb for a smaller, more location-efficient dwelling.

However, when money was brought into the picture, only 50 percent of those questioned chose the urban option, a decline of four percent from 2012. Forty-two percent chose the bigger suburban home at a lower cost, car ownership, and a drive to work, a two percent decrease from two years ago. Eight percent were undecided.

“We asked the question with the cost, and we found out the margins are small, but we still found that majority of home buyers would still choose those walkable neighbourhoods, even if it means paying more,” said Cherise Burda, the Ontario director of the Pembina Institute in an interview with BNN.

Over 80 percent of respondents said affordability was their primary consideration when choosing a neighbourhood, but walkability and transit are slowly gaining popularity.

Nearly half of voters surveyed ahead of Toronto’s upcoming mayoral election named “transit and gridlock” the number one issue facing the City in a Nanos Research poll conducted earlier this month by CTV News and The Globe and Mail.

The Pembina/RBC survey says the ideal home in the GTA is a fully-detached house, but one in a location-efficient neighbourhood. However, a “spacious home” ranked below a number of other factors like being detached, walking to shopping, a short commute, rapid transit, privacy, and getting to work without driving.

“All families, regardless of the number of children, would choose to live in a more walkable transit friendly neighbourhood if they could afford it,” said Burda.

Over three quarters of those surveyed reported a combined household income of $100,000 or less before taxes in 2013. In August, the average price of a GTA home was $546,303 according to the Toronto Real Estate Board.

CTV.ca CTV Two CTV News CTV News Channel BNN - Business News Network CP24