Gen Z's living 'must-haves' are steering them away from big cities: report


Natasha O'Neill Writer

The youngest generation of working Canadians has a long list of values and living needs that many big cities are not meeting, according to a new report.

People in Generation Z—which includes people born between 1997 and 2012—are the newest 18- to 26-year-olds entering the workforce.

These young adults prioritize the cost of living, a work-life balance and mental health access and according to an analysis by Point2, many cities are not meeting that criteria.

The study, published on Friday by the real-estate company, ranks 50 of Canada's largest municipalities using 35 metrics across four categories including; demographics and education, economy and real estate, community and environment and health and wellbeing.

"From financial security and autonomy to easier access to mental health services, Gen Z young adults know what they want and are much less afraid to ask for it than any of the previous generations," the report reads. "They’re also less likely to compromise: Millennials’ 'nice to haves' are becoming Gen Z’s absolute 'must-haves.'"

Point2 gathered the data from the 2021 Census reports by Statistics Canada and city-level reports on the community.

The data shows the cities that meet most of the younger generations' needs are smaller in population and away from urban centres which ranked poorly due to the higher cost of living, unaffordable homes and poorer mental health access.


St. John's, N.L., was ranked the city "most ready" for the next generation with a score of 64.90 out of 100.

It is the "star city" among the needs of the younger generation across the categories that "embody the ideal lifestyle for a Gen Z-er," the report reads.

The East Coast city has a lower cost of living per month at $1,600 and was highly ranked in the perceived mental health category for 12- to 34-year-olds.

Buying a home in St. John's, according to the report, is relatively inexpensive compared to other cities in Canada.

However, the municipality lost points when it came to a smaller percentage of Gen Z Canadians who reside in the community (17.16 per cent) and a lower median income ratio for the generation ($28,075).

"Being able to use the money they earn to fulfil their homeownership dreams and also their smaller, day-to-day dreams creates the kind of mental safety and comfort that Gen Z knows are indispensable for a well-lived life," the report reads.The rest of the top 10 cities that meet Gen Z's needs are almost exclusively in Quebec, the data shows.

"Québec is the place to be for young professionals aged 18 to 26… with the highest scores in categories like median income; cost of living; access to health; (and especially mental health services); and share of young homeowners," the report reads.

Quebec City, Que., came in a close second with a score of 64.73 out of 100.

Similarly to St. John's, Quebec City has a low cost of living per month of $1,404, and a perceived "very good" or "excellent" mental health score.

It also ranked higher than most cities when it came to the home price-to-income ratio.

Quebec City lost points when it came to the lower percentage (15.34) of younger people who reside in the municipality.

Levis, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivieres, Saguenay, Gatineau, Montreal and Terrebonne Que., earned scores between 63.49 and 56.9, rounding out the top nine spots.

All municipalities on the list have a low cost of living per month, a lower home price-to-income ratio and a high perceived mental health rating.

Regina, Sask. secured the 10th spot according to the list, with a score of 56.59 out of 100.

The Prairie city has one of the highest median after-tax incomes for younger Canadians at $32,688. It also has a low cost of living per month of around $1,489.

According to the report, Regina is one of the cities with the lowest home price-to-income ratio in Canada.

However, the municipality lost points for a lower perceived mental health score and a smaller percentage of the population being a part of Generation Z.


The majority of the cities at the top of the list have populations under 500,000, which the report notes could be a factor for a tighter-knit community, or indicate a migration away from urban centres.

"Big cities could fall out of grace unless they step up in the areas that are non-negotiable for the youngest generation of workers that’s slowly joining the market," the report reads.

Despite cities like Vancouver and Edmonton ranking highest in median incomes and Toronto ranking higher in remote work adoption, the cities overall had a low score.

"While none of Canada's 50 largest cities achieve a perfect score in meeting Gen Z's expectations, several cities are making significant strides towards becoming ideal destinations for the new generation," analysts from Point2 told in an email. "While perfection remains elusive, there are certainly promising contenders in the mix."