Less traffic, more green space, bigger homes drive Montrealers to suburbs

Daybreak's Shari Okeke met families to ask them what made them decide to stay in Montreal or to move to the suburbs.

Municipal election candidates promise to make Montreal more family-friendly

Sonya Di Sclafani and Eric Zinman moved from Rosemont to Kirkland. Their youngest child, Jenna, 5, loves the big backyard. 'We're enjoying every moment,' Di Sclafani said. (Shari Okeke/CBC)

Every year Montreal loses families to the off-island and West Island suburbs.

According to the Institut de la statistique du Québec, in the five years between 2011 and 2016, more than 24,000 children under the age of 15 moved out of the city.

As part of Daybreak's coverage of Quebec's municipal elections, Shari Okeke met families to find out what made them decide to stay in Montreal or to move to the suburbs. 

The families also share their opinions on what would make Montreal more family-friendly.

From Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie to Kirkland

Sonya Di Sclafani grew up in Anjou and lived in the Plateau neighbourhood for many years before buying a duplex in Rosemont. She never imagined moving to the suburbs.

"I was a fan of my street, it was tree-lined, it was pretty," Di Sclafani said of her home in Rosemont.

"I really enjoyed the area. I think it had a lot to offer families," she said.

But when Di Sclafani bought her duplex she was a single parent with one child.

After she married Eric Zinman and had a second child, her family needed more space, so they renovated the duplex.

'Tired of the struggle'

That helped for a while, but as the children grew, Di Sclafani and Zinman decided it was time for a single-family home.

"We didn't want to compromise any more. We were tired of the struggle of fighting the traffic, fighting cramped quarters," she said.

Now they're enjoying the space and tranquility the suburbs offer, she says.

What was missing in Montreal?

"It's the housing that needs to be more appropriate to families and generally more accessible — i.e., affordable," Di Sclafani said.

She and her husband say there's no looking back.

"[Montreal] would have to really figure out their traffic situation honestly, unless you're strictly bus and Metro. But if you're not, it's kind of a nightmare there," Zinman said.

Of Kirkland, Zinman said, "We get more space. We get a bigger house, a big back yard. We have a dog now, a lot more green space, a lot more parks."

'Paying double the taxes'

'Montreal is tattooed on my heart,' says Stéphanie Neveu, who lives in Villeray with her husband and two young kids. 'But the prices are crazy.' (Shari Okeke/CBC)

Stéphanie Neveu was born and raised in the Villeray neighbourhood, where she now owns a home with her husband and two young children.

They bought the duplex in 2009 and, after having a second child, they converted it into a cottage.

Since then, their property taxes have increased dramatically.

"We're paying double the taxes that we were paying before," Neveu said.

She wants to hear a promise of tax relief from candidates during Montreal's municipal election campaign. 

Tax cuts would help

"Tax cuts, something that would help families stay in Montreal, because the prices are going through the roof," she said. 

Neveu says there should also be a municipal law forcing developers to build housing that is more appropriate for families.

"If they're building a 20-unit condo building, half of them should have 3 rooms and should be at price reasonable for families to purchase, which is not the case," Neveu said. 

I'm a born Montrealer: it's tattooed on my heart. I'm going to do everything I can to stay," she said.

"But if the prices keep going up, who's to say that we won't have to move." 

Renting in Villeray

Brittany Black and her husband live in Villeray with their two children but may head to the suburbs when they're ready to buy. 'We would rather get more bang for our buck.' (Shari Okeke/CBC)

Brittany Black and her family moved to Montreal from Vancouver two years ago and are renting a lower duplex in Villeray.

"We love Montreal. It's a fantastic city. I walk to everything.… I wouldn't want to live anywhere else right now," Black said.

But Black is not convinced her family will be able to stay in the city once she and her husband are ready to purchase a home.

She would love to buy a home in Villeray, the Plateau or Little Italy but "what we can get for what we can afford [there] is not reachable, and it's not worth it for me to put $500,000 to $600,000 into a fixer-upper,"said Black.

"Even though city living is fantastic, what we're going to get for what we're able to afford, we wouldn't be happy and satisfied," she said. 

She said probably, she and her family will eventually buy a home in the suburbs.

Could be convinced to stay

What could convince her to buy in the city?

Stroller-friendly Metro stations, for one thing.

"It would need to happen fast because people don't want to wait around another five years to get elevators in every single Metro when their kids are growing up, and they don't need elevators any more," she said.

"Less construction. More elaborate playgrounds, that would be really great. I could be convinced, and I would be happy staying in the city," she said.

Candidates debate on Daybreak

Russell Copeman, who is running for re-election as borough mayor of Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce with Équipe Denis Coderre and Sue Montgomery, Projet Montréal's candidate for borough mayor of Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, were on Daybreak Tuesday, debating how best to make Montreal more family-friendly.

Listen here:


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