Saturday, May 2, 2009

Okay, Make That “We’re Number 1!” (in a way)

So it turns out that the ranking thing isn’t over yet. MoneySense Magazine, a Canadian publication (yes there are exclusively Canadian magazines! Great ones, like MacLean’s, The Walrus and Canadian Geographic even!) has surveyed the weather, household incomes, crime rates, housing availability and other factors and decided that Victoria is the #1 place to live out of 154 Canadian cities! Yay us!

Of course, they also ranked us the #1 place to retire to in Canada (yep!), but when it came to cities with “buzz” we weren’t even in the top five. Sigh. It’s true -- the saying here is that Victoria is for the “flowerbeds, newlyweds and nearly-deads.” It’s not the trendiest place in the Great White North, that’s for sure. But if there were a poll for “most British,” we’d take that with ease. Heck, these days we’re more properly British than England ...

Last year, this same survey ranked us #2 behind Ottawa-Gatineau, entirely on the lack of affordable housing. Victoria still sucks in this regard (most expensive homes in the country, vacancy rate near zero even in recession, almost no purpose-built rental properties) with an embarrassing ranking of 147th out of 154, but ironically the slowing economy has opened up a rental-condo market out of all those expensive condo palaces they started building when credit was cheap and easy, so we’re a little better on this point than we were last year. Several projects that were started here last year are now applying for government assistance to get finished, meaning some units that were previously going to be sold for $200K-500K will now become “family-oriented affordable housing.” Holy cosmic justice, Batman!

Speaking of unintended consequences, there is an upside to swine flu as it turns out -- at least as far as Victoria’s tourist economy is concerned. A couple of mega-cruise ships leaving out of LA are being diverted away from Mexico and are instead coming here for their annual runs. Victoria already gets tonnes of cruise ship business down at Ogden Point, just a short walk from our home, but this will add another $5M or so in direct economic benefit to an already record-breaking year. We’ve been quite surprised that more US tourists haven’t come up this year -- the exchange rate means you get an extra 20-25% for your buck here than in anywhere else in the Pacific Northwest (hint, hint!)!

So when it comes to places that have unbridled amounts of flowers, seniors, anglophilia and Chas-n-Heather, Victoria is going to be #1 for a long time to come.