Keeping up with the Jones’ has always been a rite of passage for many homeowners. When your next-door neighbours pave their driveway, you put in cobblestone; when you put in a fountain, they put in a pool. But take a trip down the Bridle Path neighbourhood in Toronto and you’ll quickly discover keeping up with the Jones’ means bulldozing the old mansion and rebuilding another with an extra six rooms in mind. Welcome to Canada’s richest neighbourhood.
Even those who haven’t visited Toronto are likely familiar with the city’s tony Bridle Path area. Located in the centre of the city within a short trip to downtown, palatial mansions, many locked behind gates and obscured by hedges, are designed to impress. And they are truly mansions: 8-bedroom, 16-bathroom homes are commonplace here with a going price north of $13 million. And more are popping up all the time. The number of new homes in various states of construction is as impressive as the houses that dot the leafy streets. To say it’s a sought-after address is an understatement. Considering three of the five richest neighbourhoods in the country are clustered together in this part of town, it’s unquestionably the choice area for Canada’s richest households.
As well-heeled as this area is, the real wealth is concentrated around the southern most end of the Bridle Path overlooking Edwards Gardens, which is arguably the crown jewel of the city’s many parks. Those calling this neighbourhood home are worth on average $16-million. Yet even that figure conceals the real wealth here. This area still consists of more modest sized homes than the over-the-top mansions, suggesting the wealth of a handful of households is so abundant that it is pulling up the overall average.
To say the rich live differently than we do doesn’t tell the full story of life in many of these wealthy enclaves across the country. Money aside, the people who live in these neighbourhoods aren’t your average Canadians: They have stronger conservative views than the general population, they’re more likely to be married and they have slightly larger families, according to detailed data provided by Environics Analytics.
Environics providedCanadian Business with detailed snapshots of the five richest neighbourhoods in each province. Many of these areas consist of fewer than 200 households or populations with less than 500 people to give us the most precise glimpse possible of what life is like in each of these communities. Backed by their immense wealth and handsome annual incomes, these families are two-to-three times as likely to own a second property, boast a seven-figure investment account and own a home valued in excess of $1 million.
That certainly describes the residents who inhabit Montreal’s Westmount area, particularly those bordering Parc Summit. Residents here are worth more than $8 million, more than half of which is in non-RRSP investments. Voting preferences highlight one of the few distinguishing factors of residents here. Westmount’s richest residents equally supported Conservatives and the Liberals in the last federal election. No wonder several of Canada’s former prime ministers, from both parties, have at one time or another called this neighbourhood home.
In other ways the fabulously rich aren’t all that different from us. Residents clustered around Vancouver’s Angus Park, a grassy strip just 10 minutes south of the downtown core, face the same challenges faced by most homeowners in that city: debt. Residents in this area owe on average more than $800,000. That’s the highest of any area in Canada, but that’s hardly a burden to these families considering that represents just 10% of their assets. Five neighborhoods in Canada’s western-most province have an average net worth of more than $7 million.
The richest neighbourhood in Alberta can be found just west Calgary around Escarpment Drive. Most homes here sit well back from the street on a massive plot of land or are obscured from the street by a dense set of trees. The exclusive Pinebrook Golf & Country Club, a members-only course that’s said to be one of the best in western Canada is close by.
If you want to fit in to that Calgary neighbourhood it helps if you’re married, voted conservative, earn more than a half million annually and have a taste for champagne—the denizens there drink more than twice as much bubbly than the national average (no doubt toasting their good luck to be part of the oil patch).
Of course living in one of Canada’s richest neighbourhoods means different things in different parts of the country. Over in Halifax, for instance, the richest families overlook the Northwest Arm, an inlet just south of the city’s centre. Even though properties in this part of town average about $800,000—about the cost of some condos in Toronto or Vancouver—this area is the 22nd richest neighbourhood in the country. The typical household here makes about $200,000 while the average family is worth about $3-million. In this part of town less than a third of their wealth is tied up in their home and nearly half of the residents here also own another property.
While many of the homes in these neighbourhoods across Canada have room to park several high end-vehicles, that doesn’t mean they’re always flaunting their wealth. Even those on Toronto’s Bridle Path have been known to take the bus now and again although it is odd to see a bus stop in front of some of the largest, most-well manicured properties in the country. Not surprisingly, this bus route has one of the lowest ridership rates in the city; but then why ride the Red Rocket, as Torontonian lovingly call their transit system, when you can rocket around in the latest Ferrari?