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Sep. 25, 2020 | Friday
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NOTL among best places to live, most affluent in Canada, Maclean's magazine survey finds
Niagara-on-the-Lake cenotaph on Queen Street. (Dariya Baiguzhiyeva/Niagara Now)

Niagara-on-the-Lake is not only one of the affluent communities in Canada, but also one of the best places to live, according to Maclean’s magazine.

With an average household net worth of $1,255,495, NOTL ranked 31st on the magazine’s annual list of the 100 richest communities in the country.

With a population of 18,652, the median household income in the town is $93,425, Maclean’s said.

Among the 25 best communities in which to live, NOTL is number eight. The magazine decreed the top three significant features in NOTL are demographics, wealth and economy, and weather.

Burlington was named the top city to live in, followed by Grimsby and Ottawa.

The magazine collected data on 415 cities across Canada to produce its annual list of the top cities in the country.

Maclean’s ranked communities in a variety of categories, including wealth and economy, affordability, population growth, taxes, commute, crime, amenities and culture, access to health care and weather.

Lord Mayor Betty Disero said although she is proud and happy NOTL made it onto the best community list, she said there were some inaccuracies in the ranking and she wished it was more detailed. She noted the town doesn’t have a high crime rate compared to other municipalities.

In the survey, NOTL’s five-year crime severity index sits at 53, higher than Burlington’s crime rate of 25, Disero said. The national rate is 73.

According to Maclean’s, the lower the crime severity index, the better.

Disero added the town has a diverse community and to say NOTL is rich would be “unfair.” But to say, “Niagara-on-the-Lake has expensive housing costs, I would say that’s fair,” she said.

NOTL realtor Chris Ridabock said the town shouldn’t be characterized as rich because, besides some wealthy people living here, there are also lots of people who should be considered middle-class.

“The community is rich. It’s certainly rich in heritage, in its roots to the agricultural world, it’s rich from its magnificent wineries,” Ridabock said in a phone interview.

Another NOTL realtor, Arthur Wosinski, said many people have the impression NOTL is a rich community but he wouldn’t say “everybody is in that range.”

As Old Town has a special historical significance, it is “quite normal” that housing prices there would be higher than in other areas of town, Ridabock said, noting if people wanted to live in Paris or London rather than in the suburbs, they would also expect to pay higher.

NOTL resident MJ McGraw agreed, saying the town’s reputation of being a high-end community doesn’t define its residents. She said there are gaps in some town services and gave an example of how it may be hard for people without a vehicle to move around the town.

“It’s hard for young people, it’s hard for tourists,” she told The Lake Report. “But if you don’t have that privilege (of owning a vehicle) and try living here, this is more like a subdivision than a town.”

McGraw said Grimsby, which was ranked the second-best community in Canada, has parks, public swimming pools, daycare and accessibility while some amenities in NOTL are harder to access.

“This town is built on a lot of assumptions of who lives here,” McGraw said. “If you just walk up and down Queen Street, that’s not Niagara-on-the-Lake.”

There are people in town who have to go to thrift shops and food banks, she said, adding they can’t be “put off into the corner somewhere (as) they’re the fabric of this community, too.”

Although NOTL may be one of the richest communities, there are always people in need, said Newark Neighbours vice-chair Suzanne Vaillant.

“We live in a very generous community who’s always ready and willing to assist us,” Vaillant told The Lake Report, noting people who come to the thrift shop are not necessarily people who can’t afford something but people who just might be looking to buy something for their homes.

Virgil Business Association president Richard Wall said NOTL is a “well-off community.”

“When I read the article, they took a lot of criteria into account,” Wall said in a phone interview, adding the town has always had a strong business community, which could have played a role in the Maclean’s ranking.

Eduardo Lafforgue, president of the NOTL Chamber of Commerce, declined to comment.

In other rankings, NOTL was placed on 35th among the cities with the best weather. NOTL has 127.5 days with a temperature above 20C, 238.1 days when it’s above 0 C and 150.7 of days of snow.

With the population of people under 15 years old in NOTL at 15 per cent, the town was also ranked 89th on the list of Canada’s best places to raise children.

Following Grimsby, NOTL is the second-best place for new Canadians. As well, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment here is $1,127. And 20 per cent of the population speaks a language other than English or French.

NOTL is also the 45th fastest-growing community, with a five-year growth rate sitting at 2.1 per cent.

Disero said she’s proud of what the town provides for people to have “high quality of life” and there is always going to be the need for improvement.

Among the best communities to retire in Canada, NOTL was in 49th place. NOTL is also number 92 among the best places for great health care with four doctor’s offices in town, 102 family doctors per 100,000 population in the health region and 119 specialists per 100,000 population.

However, NOTL didn’t make it to the list of the best communities with affordable real estate.