Income mapped: Toronto’s wealth shifts westward

TORONTO – Toronto’s wealth is moving west.

Tax data obtained by Global News from Statistics Canada shows a large swath of neighbourhoods in west Toronto and Etobicoke being filled with steadily increasing incomes.

Comparing median family incomes in census tracts over a decade shows a shift in Toronto’s financial landscape: As the poor in inner suburbs got poorer, incomes in west Toronto generally grew.

Kristen Scanes is selling her Wendover Road home where she’s lived for two years. In 2002, it sold for $675,000. They’re now selling it for $2.7-million.

In depth, interactive: Mapping Canada’s shifting incomes

But Scanes, her husband and their 10-year-old son have no intention to leave the neighbourhood, where they’ve lived for two decades.

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“In terms of location, it’s so perfectly positioned in the sense that you’re 15 minutes from downtown, you’re 15 minutes to the airport, you’re removed far enough away that you’re not part of the hustle and bustle,” she said.

“It’s quiet, its calm, and yet if you work downtown it’s not a 45-minute commute.”

Others would seem to agree.

Beginning in High Park and moving west to The Kingsway, Edenbridge, Thorncrest Village and south to the Queensway, neighbourhoods on Toronto’s western edge are evolving from their middle class roots.

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The median income in some already well-off Etobicoke neighbourhoods has grown dramatically since 2001. The Kingsway grew 12.05 per cent from $182,525 to $204,530; Chestnut Hill, near Islington Avenue and Dundas Street West, grew 16.73 per cent from $116,228 to $135,670; Thorncrest Village, near Princess Anne Manor, grew 15.97 percent from $162,787 to 189,940.

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“Property values, in the last ten years, have more than doubled,” said Royal Lepage real estate agent Ana Santos. “In some pockets of Etobicoke, it’s actually tripled.”

Related: Long after ‘priority’ designation, pockets of poverty persist in east Scarborough

Dwayne Benjamin, Etobicoke resident and economics professor at the University of Toronto, suggests the area’s low density, golf courses, single-family homes and its proximity to downtown, Mississauga and Pearson are attractive to Toronto’s growing number of high income residents.

And those people are likely to cluster in well-maintained neighbourhoods, says TD economist Sonya Gulati.

“Like people tend to settle around people of like means,” she said. “So it’s like keeping up the Joneses, so to speak. So it’s not unusual to see pockets of the city having better incomes versus others.”

‘You’re going to have the high paid knowledge industries represented’

Policy consultant John Stapleton says Toronto’s layout leads to this westward shift of affluence: Etobicoke has more universities and hospitals and is closer to prosperous urban areas. (Toronto has seven universities west of Yonge Street, he notes, compared to just two to the east)

“So that’s where you are going to see the higher-knowledge jobs, you are going to see the teaching hospitals and all the spin off effects that you’re going to have the high-paid knowledge industries represented.”

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And coming off a white-hot housing market, the waterfront helps, he added.

“What’s in decline is really the landlocked areas of the inner suburbs where transportation is most difficult. That’s where you’re going to find the cheapest and most available apartments and rental situations.”

 “There’s a real gap between the haves and have-nots. And that wasn’t true in this community before”

But not everyone in these neighbourhoods is prospering. In the 13 years he’s been executive director at the Lakeshore Area Multi-service Project, Russ Ford has seen a definite shift in neighbourhood quality of life. Not always for the better.

He remembers buying his first house for just over $100,000 in 1982 – back when “it was the affordable part of Toronto.”

Now, as thickets of condos rise along the lake, Ford’s challenge is maintaining rent-controlled housing whose waterfront location has developers salivating.

“People shouldn’t be uprooted from their community just because someone wants to build a condo,” he said.

Gentrification has combined with a dessicating industrial sector to make for lots of often older residents out of work and out of options.

“Some people’s incomes have really gone up, and others are not benefiting from that,” he said. “There’s a real gap between the haves and have-nots. And that wasn’t true in this community before.”

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With files from Anna Mehler Paperny