Saint John, Fredericton and Moncton are among only nine Canadian areas deemed to have affordable house prices by an international survey of housing markets.
The annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, released Monday, graded 325 housing markets in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Of those 325 markets, only 115 were deemed affordable in 2010, including nine in Canada. A third of those were in New Brunswick.
Fredericton placed 22nd on the list, tied with Thunder Bay, Ont. New Brunswick’s capital city posted a median house price of $140,000 and a median household income of $59,600 in 2010. Those figures gave Fredericton a "Median Multiple" of 2.3 (the median house price divided by the median household income).
According to the survey, a city’s median house price should be about three times the city’s median household income. In other words, housing prices are affordable when equal to roughly three years’ income.
Moncton, meanwhile, was tied for 35th place with Yellowknife, N.W.T. Moncton recorded a median house price of $135,000 and a median household income of $56,900, giving it a Median Multiple of 2.4.
In Saint John, the median house price was $153,000, while the median household income was $55,400. Overall, the Port City came in 80th place, along with Amarillo, Texas, with a Median Multiple of 2.8.
Despite nine affordable markets, Canada also contained six "severely unaffordable" markets in 2010, including Vancouver – which ranked third from the bottom in the survey, ahead of only Sydney, Australia and Hong Kong.
David Seymour, from the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, which released the survey, says the gap between homeowners and renters is growing in cities like Vancouver.
"Socially, you have a have and have-not situation," he said in an interview from Regina. "Of course in Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John you have the opposite. And I think that’s a very positive thing."
Seymour, a senior policy analyst with the Winnipeg-based think-tank, argues that affordable housing is key for expanding a city’s economy and population. Thus, New Brunswick’s three largest cities are potentially fertile ground for growth.
Still, Seymour notes that some might argue New Brunswick’s housing prices are low because of its stagnating population and slower economy.
"That’s the negative outlook – that house prices are low because everybody has moved to Alberta," he said. "I would take the upbeat route and say this is an opportunity for the province. People should go to New Brunswick because it’s a great place," he continued. "If you sell your house in Toronto, you can put a couple hundred thousand dollars in the bank and still buy a bigger place in New Brunswick."
According to the survey, Windsor, Ont. has the most affordable housing market in Canada, placing the southern Ontario city in a tie for 10th place on the international list. Across Canada, nine markets were deemed affordable, 17 were moderately unaffordable, three were seriously unaffordable and six were severely unaffordable.