Families with young kids leaving Toronto for southwestern Ontario

Cramped living conditions, high real estate prices, daycare costs in Toronto are prompting families with young children to flee the big city in search of more affordable options with tens of thousands of them choosing southwestern Ontario each year.

Toronto is now London's largest feeder city as thousands of families leave each year

Downtown skyscrapers poke through the trees in London, Ont. Taken on August 20, 2020.
The skyline may not be as impressive in London, Ont., (pictured) as it is in Toronto, but families who've left the big city say that in London, they're far happier, richer and less harried than they ever were in Toronto. (Colin Butler/CBC)

She was hesitant at first, but since Betsy Tevlin and her husband Sean made the decision to leave Toronto for London with their two young children in 2016, they've had no regrets. 

"We just thought that it was beneficial to raise children in London for variety of reasons," she said. "I'm much happier here."

Part of the reason, said the 36-year-old political marketing consultant, is that their family budget goes much further in London, compared to Toronto.

They traded their 1,600 square-foot semi-detached house in Toronto for a cheaper, 2,700-square-foot fully-detached house in London, complete with a larger backyard. They also cut their daycare costs, from $2,200 a month for part-time care in Toronto to $958 for full-time care in London. 

Toronto is London's largest feeder city

"I'm more than happy these days with everything we've been able to attain since we came here," she said. "Not just housing, but to be able to go on vacation again because we don't have to pay daycare fees."

The Tevlins are just one example of the tens of thousands of families that have left Toronto in favour of the quality-of-life offered elsewhere. 

Economist Mike Moffatt says a shortage of affordable, family-friendly homes plays a role. 

"A lot of the housing that's been built in Toronto for the last couple decades has been luxury bachelor condos," he said, adding that couples will often happily live in those condos, until they have children.

"They realize 'this ain't going to work' and they're getting in a car and finding somewhere else to live and often times that's in London."

60,000 people leave Toronto and Peel each year for SW Ont.

Moffatt said in 2019, the year before the pandemic, up to 60,000 people left Toronto and Peel Region, a quarter of them children under five and the rest between the ages of 28 and 40, many of them settling in London. 

As home prices continue to rise, families who have moved from Toronto to London, Ont., say their real estate dollar gets far more value in a smaller community that offers a better quality of life. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

As a result, the city itself has grown by 10 per cent between 2016 and 2021, making the community the fastest-growing city in Ontario and the fourth fastest-growing city in Canada. 

Outlying communities, such as Woodstock, Tilsonburg and St. Thomas are seeing similar patterns, but none are growing faster than Lucan-Biddulph, a town north of London that grew by 20 per cent due to the GTA outflow. 

"Lucan-Biddulph is one of the fastest-growing communities in Canada and that's a fantastic thing for these communities, it's revitalizing a lot of main streets in smaller communities." 

Moffatt said such robust growth is creating infrastructure needs in the southwest. With the large influx of children, some schools in northwest London are bursting at the seams, while similar schools in Toronto are underused, including Drake's former high school, resulting in millions spent on empty classrooms. 

At the same time, real estate prices more than doubled in London due to the influx in the last five years, with the average price hitting $823,000 in the region last month. 


Colin Butler


Colin Butler covers the environment, real estate, justice as well as urban and rural affairs for CBC News in London, Ont. He is a veteran journalist with 20 years' experience in print, radio and television in seven Canadian cities. You can email him at