New Toronto neighbourhoods ranking seems to be done by people who have never been to the city

When I first moved to Toronto, there were a few neighbourhoods in which I could really see myself living and being happiest. It took eight years to get there. First renting, then buying an affordable starter home, adding value, selling and buying again in the neighbourhood of choice, not necessarily the home of choice. It’s not easy, and there are no shortcuts, unless you have a money tree in the backyard. Not here.

I was thinking about this when a release came in about a digital real estate platform dubbed Wahi coming out with a ranking of where to live in the city in 2023. The results are eye-rolling material.

The “first-of-its-kind interactive and comprehensive ranking of the Greater Toronto Area’s top neighbourhoods by region ranked against 11 lifestyle categories from car-free living to the best neighbourhoods for foodies, the report is one of the top tools on the market for homebuyers to find the top-ranked neighbourhoods that best match their criteria in each of the Greater Toronto regions.”

The new report has a noble purpose. Because of affordability issues, the report concludes that many potential home buyers in the city give up on the neighbourhood of their dreams and settle. The report is run by Angus Reid and surveyed 500 people in Ontario.

According to the survey, nearly one-third (30 per cent) of Ontarians province-wide say they had to give up on their top choice when buying the home they live in today.

“While people know where they want to live, many had to pick another neighbourhood,” Wahi CEO Benjy Katchen said of the survey findings.

But, the question is whether or not any of those surveyed live in Toronto.

Here are a few of the more surprising results in the neighbourhood rankings:

Want to know where to live in Toronto if you’re a foodie? The rankings suggest, no not the incredible Ossington area, not King West, Dundas West or anything west whatsoever. Here, the suggestion is the Bay Street corridor in the Financial District. Okay, it’s not a culinary wasteland, there is the odd steakhouse and a good Eggsmart, but seriously folks. Bay Street?

How about for the nature lovers? One might think living near the city’s incredible natural wonderland of High Park might rank highly. Or, The Beach for its proximity to Lake Ontario and abundance of park space. No no, too easy. The rankings suggest the best place for nature lovers is Allenby, a nondescript somewhat upscale area in North Toronto. It suggests Allenby as a result of its proximity to Eglinton Park and the Belt Line Trail. Great, but Eglinton Park is overrun with people, not nature, and the Belt Line Trail literally runs through a number of other neighbourhoods with plenty of parks and green space of their own. The inclusion of The Bridle Path, the closest thing to a gated community in Toronto and Teddington Park as the second and third place areas make it worse. We just don’t get it.

It’s also interesting that Cedarvale, a very nice neighbourhood, is the top ranked area for both retirees and families. Huh? Do they not know the image of old man waving fist at kids making noise out in the yard? How can this be?

The best place for car-free living is the Distillery District, which isn’t serviced by any subway, and the only streetcar is a fair walk up to King Street. The most obvious hulking piece of transportation infrastructure is the Gardiner — for cars. So, getting anywhere else in the city without one is problematic. One cannot survive on high-priced tacos and good live theatre alone. Trinity-Bellwoods and St. Lawrence Market are ranking second and third, which make more sense.

It’s not all bad. And, it does underline the point that different neighbourhoods mean different things to everyone. And it might be a challenge to find any one neighbourhood in the city that checks all the boxes, but there are many great areas to check out some of which might even surprise you.

No neighbourhood ranking can replace getting to know an area, walking the streets, talking to potential neighbours, really trying to get a feel for an area, before committing. Once you’ve pegged a few key locations, the real work begins. And sometimes it just takes time to find the perfect spot.

Don’t rush it. And never think the Financial District is the place to go for a nice meal, no matter who says it.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO