A pair of riders enjoy the beach at Pat Bay in North Saanich during a warm spring afternoon. (Steven Heywood/News staff file)

North Saanich makes MoneySense’s Best Places to Live list

Financial mag ranks communities on prosperity, affordability, safety

North Saanich has made the top five in Canada’s Best Places to Live, as chosen by MoneySense magazine this year.

Coming in at fourth place, North Saanich scores well in the financial magazine’s estimation of its prosperity (high incomes), access to health care, low crime, access to transit and a strong sports and arts community.

Ranked in the top spot in MoneySense’s list is Ottawa, followed by Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures, Quebec, Oak Bay, North Saanich and Weyburn, Saskatchewan.

Central Saanich makes the list at 14th spot, while Sidney comes in at 115th out of the 417 communities ranked.

This is North Saanich’s first appearance on the MoneySense list, after the magazine “invited dozens of bedroom communities into our report that we haven’t considered in the past.” Oak Bay, Central Saanich and Sidney were also included for the first time this year. The magazine generally awards the highest ranks on its list to communities that are prosperous, affordable, safe, easy to get around in and with weather that draws people outdoors.

North Saanich Mayor Alice Finall says the list reflects something that current residents of the community have known for a long time.

“No question, it’s one of the best places to live in Canada,” she said. “Our residents do know that we have a wonderful and healthy natural environment.”

Since its incorporation in 1965, Finall continued, local leaders, and most District councils, have stuck with and supported a cornerstone of North Saanich’s official community plan — to preserve the agricultural, marine and rural atmosphere of the community.

“The goals of most councils have been to balance growth, especially in the face of development pressures.”

With a population of around 11,774, North Saanich has an unemployment rate of two per cent and median household income of $103,937 — in statistics compiled by MoneySense. The average value of real estate in the District municipality is $840,785 with average property taxes of $4,028.

The list shows North Saanich saw a 15 per cent reduction in its overall crime rate over the last five years.

Finall recognized that her community is a safe place to live — adding that attracts young families.

“Parents recognize that this is a great place to raise your children,” she said, adding that was one of the reasons she came to North Saanich in the first place. “We need to protect and value the livability of this special community.”

Central Saanich’s crime rate also dropped in that time frame, by 17 per cent. With a population of 17,054, that District’s median household income is $91,410 and real estate values come in at an average of $709,539. It’s unemployment rate is estimated at 2.9 per cent.

Sidney’s population of 11,671 had an estimated unemployment rate of 2.3 per cent, and the median household income sits at $74,694. Average home prices are $525,068 and over the last five years, crime has dropped 35 per cent.

Oak Bay, with a population of 18,373, has an unemployment rate of 2.7 per cent, a crime rate drop of 24 per cent, a median household income of $94,610 and average real estate prices of $1 million.

In all three Saanich Peninsula communities, the availability of doctors sits at around 3.3 doctors per 1,000 people. That figure is slightly higher than the average among most of the top 10 communities on the list (Ottawa 3.3, Oak Bay 3.3, Weyburn 0.7, St. Albert 2.7, Burlington 2.6).

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