Oshawa is continuing to see an influx of new residents, according to the latest statistics from Statistics Canada.
Over the past year, the city’s area population grew more than 2 per cent, gaining nearly 10,000 more residents. Experts say much of that has to do with the exodus from Toronto as people search for bigger homes outside the city.
And according to the city’s mayor, Dan Carter, that exodus has been expected for some time.
“I think our day has come and I think we’ve been building towards this for some time,” Carter said.
“We’re affordable, we’re a safe city. We have great amenities here. We’ve got unbelievable post-education.”
The numbers show that not only has the area seen a boost, it’s one of the fastest-growing CMAs in Canada. The increase outpaces the national average of just 1.3 per cent.
The jump doesn’t seem to be a surprise for some people in the region.
“They’re seeing that they want to have a different experience in their life,” says Mayor Carter of the city’s new residents. “They want to have more space, they want to be outside and enjoy the greenspace.”
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Michael Watson, president of the Durham Region Association of Realtors, says the organization has seen a steady rise over the past several years.
“Durham Region is one of the fastest-growing regions, and this is something we’ve seen over the past several years,” says Watson.
In data collected by the association, 733 residential transactions were logged in the month of December alone. They say that represents a nearly 50-per cent increase from the previous year.
In Oshawa there were 184 transactions, Whitby had 109 and Clarington saw 96. Watson says the statistics show people are coming to the region.
“The’re looking for more space, bigger homes and a place to raise their families,” says Watson. “They’re looking further east and Durham is the perfect place to be.”
“Clarington, Bowmanville, you’re getting more home for less money. If you live in Toronto and sell a condo worth $1.5M you can then turn around and buy an entire house with a back yard and front yard for $700,000.”
That’s something brokerage owner Jennifer Pearce agrees with.
“We’ve come into the new year with record-breaking numbers in all areas,” says Pearce.
She owns a brokerage with Re/Max Rouge River Realty, with offices in Durham Region and Toronto. Over the past year, she says, she and her agents have noticed the trend.
“From our agents, specifically, we know that the offers they are getting on our listings, I would say more than 60 per cent are coming from the Greater Toronto Area and further out,” she says.
And with the promise of more jobs coming back to General Motors in Oshawa and increased transportation options that will add several stops to Go Transit in the region, officials think it’s a sign of more to come.
“We’re excited about this opportunity. Now what we have to do is to deliver to everybody in the city to make sure we keep pace,” says Mayor Dan Carter.
Carter says he recognizes with the influx of new residents comes a lot more work, ensuring they can accommodate the expected growth in the next few years.
“How do we make sure we have the right recreational programs?’ How do we support seniors that are moving into the area and how do we support healthcare?” Carter said.
“It’s not just about welcoming people here. It’s about investing in our communities to make (sure) that we are able to deliver the services necessary.”
Meanwhile, there remain questions as to how lifestyle changes over the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic have contributed to the exodus. Brian Bridgeman, Commissioner of Economic Development says they are still trying to figure out what is happening.
“We’re not sure what to make of it exactly,” says Bridgeman. “Is this something that’s a sustainable pattern or is this a COVID-related circumstance?”
And only time will tell if this has been an anomaly, or represents an ongoing trend.