Canadian cities pride themselves as alternatives to American urban areads.
Safer, more equitable, and equally rich in culture as their counterparts south of the border, cities in Canada are competitive international economic centres that draw millions of visitors and thousands of immigrants each year.
But in one area in particular Canadian cities have historically outperformed those in the United States: affordability.
For decades, Montreal, Toronto and Calgary maintained a remarkably low cost-of-living coupled with qualities-of-life that ranked among the best in the world.
That is quickly changing.
A new ranking from a professor at Simon Fraser Univeristy lists three Canadian cities as the least affordable not only in Canada, but on the entire continent.
While Vancouver has long held the infamous distinction as the most expensive city in the country, the new ranking puts the city ahead of the most expensive city in the United States.
That's right, Vancouver is the least affordable city in both the United States in Canada with median home values eleven times more expensive than the median income in the metro area. For comparison the next least affordable city, Los Angeles, sees real estate values at only 8.8 times the median income.
Other Canadian cities also perform poorly. Toronto comes in as the fourth least afforable city in North America, and Hamilton (Hamilton!) comes in at twelfth ahead of famously expensive American cities like Miami, Boston, and Seattle.
Montreal and Calgary are also in the top (or bottom, depending on your perspective) twenty-five. Despite a cost-of-living unusually low for a major city, Montreal has also seen price increases as luxury condo development downtown ad international investment affect real estate costs across the metro area.
Unlike the United States, Canada has few major cities that can serve as alternatives to its most expensive metro areas. While an American could leave pricey New York for any of dozens of cheap cities in the mid and south west, Canadians looking to escape rising costs have relatively few choices.
The provincial and federal governments will have to act swiftly to slow the escalation of costs while not impeding continuing economic development. That will take some creative thinking.