Occupying the area just north of Toronto proper, North York is something of an enigma. The former municipality is at once the location of some of the GTA's most affluent citizens, who live in communities 100% comprised of luxurious estate homes on rolling, tree-lined boulevards. Meanwhile, down the road are some of Toronto's poorest neighbourhoods, including the infamous Jane and Finch, which has become synonymous with crime for Torontonians. Cultural diversity is a big part of what defines North York – it's defined by its inconsistencies. Across the community, visible minorities and immigrants make up fully half of the population (in Jane and Finch, it's 93%). Each community within North York can almost be identified, although not accurately, by its own ethnic grouping:
Meanwhile, Yonge Street is transforming into a second downtown for Toronto, attracting major corporations like Shoppers Drug Mart, Xerox, Equifax, Nestle, McDonald's and some federal government offices. All this means renters have nothing but choice in North York – choice in neighbours, choice in housing types, choice in prices and choice in work opportunities.
Everyone. North York is virtually indefinable, encompassing some of Toronto's poorest residents and its richest. The southeast section is virtually paved in gold, whereas the northern parts, and especially the western half of North York, tend to be very poor and some areas have high crime rates.
Everyone. Those who like the energetic downtown vibe, plus suburb-dwellers, low-income families and old money are all welcome. Whether you work down the street or downtown Toronto, North York offers commuting options for drivers and transit lovers. There are schools for kids, hospitals for seniors and after-dark activities for everyone else.
Only small town folk might find themselves out of place in North York, which is home to 657,000 residents. Otherwise, the city has something for everyone.
Where the cultural divides of North York occur, so do the differences in the city's life and style. Yonge's concrete jungle brings out the suits and after-work martini crowd, and Bayview Village's middle-upper class residents stroll through kids' fashion boutiques and organic coffee shops, while in Jane and Finch, sirens wail through the night on the hunt for gangs and dealers.
Renters can truly find anything they want in North York. The city has a ton of rental stock in any price range, including $5,000-a-month executive homes and three-bedroom apartment units for $800. The northern and western regions of North York have lots of apartment units available for low-income earners in high-rise apartments, many of which are run down and some have insufficient indoor plumbing. That said, around Bayview Village there are beautiful homes on big lots that back onto expansive green spaces and are graced with vistas over the ravine.
*the drastic variation in the makeup of North York makes it unfair to create one average for the whole city. The first number is an average for the northwest of the city; the second is for the affluent southeast.
Avg. rent compared to other Toronto-area towns and regions
North York northwest is 24% lower than GTA average
North York southeast is 136% higher than GTA average
Everything from dingy high-rise apartments to luxury multi-million-dollar estates.
North York's section of Highway 401 is the country's busiest stretch of highway, collecting more than 400,000 cars a day.
Most of the city's high-rise construction, which includes office towers, condominiums and mixed-use developments, is concentrated on Yonge Street between Finch and Sheppard, although the expansion of the subway along Sheppard has driven some high density development to the Sheppard East corridor. The best shopping malls are Yorkdale Shopping Centre and Fairview Mall. There's a Jewish community on Bathurst that brings with it incredible delis, and the intersection of Finch and Leslie is a little Chinatown with cheap eats. Two hospitals – North York General and Humber River Regional ¬– are within the city's borders as well as York University, the oft-visited Black Creek Pioneer Village and the Ontario Science Centre. The East Don Parkland in the east has great trails and pretty natural areas for weekend getaways from the bustle of the downtown area on Yonge.
Amesbury-Brookhaven is a family-friendly neighbourhood made up of primarily middle-income immigrants from Italy and from Jamaica. The apartment units are normally bigger, with three bedrooms, and come with affordable rents and plenty of parks down the street.
Second to Bathurst Manor, Armour Heights is an important Jewish community that started out as an air force training area in WWII, leading to its name. It's where the richer Jewish families of the area live, but there are as many unmarried, childless couples as families. Rents and purchase prices here are higher than average.
This stretch of Bathurst Street in North York is the GTA's premier Jewish community. Hence, amazing delis and unique shops abound. In terms of housing, it's a great area offering affordable rents in simple bungalows and some mid-rise apartment buildings off of Bathurst. The area is beloved by families, and seniors and singles as well.
Home of the enormous upscale Bayview Village shopping centre, this community has some great living opportunities in newer condos and decently priced detached homes for rent, while other streets have large and virtually unaffordable homes.
Crime is a concern in Black Creek, where North York's poorer residents gather under the shadows of high-rise, low-rent apartment buildings for shady dealings. Black Creek is another name for the Jane and Finch neighbourhood, which often replaces the word crime in Toronto conversations. That said, for those seeking low rents, this neighbourhood certainly caters to low budgets.
Sorry renters, the Bridle Path is exclusively comprised of multi-million dollar mansions on sprawling estates, usually gated from the quiet and picturesque street. There are no rentals available here – ever.
Another of North York's important Jewish districts, the Clanton Park neighbourhood caters to people with somewhat lower incomes, favouring lower-rent apartment buildings and some bungalows.
By far the best-known neighbourhood in all of Canada, Don Mills boasts incredible shopping at the Shops at Don Mills, lovely homes, fantastic green spaces, the fountain show in the charming Town Square and top-notch recreational facilities. Part suburban and part urban, Don Mills has a mixed housing stock that includes condos and detached houses, but is very, very expensive for renters and buyers.
Don Valley Village is located in North York's northeast corner and is mainly a low- to middle-income neighbourhood centred around Fairview Mall and North York General Hospital. There are lots of new immigrants here living in high-rise apartments and small bungalows.
Home of Yorkdale Mall and CFB Toronto, Downsview is a huge neighbourhood with lots of residents of Jewish and Italian descent. Most homes were built in the 1950s and 1960s and are rented out on par with the region's average.
Emery is a community housing a multitude of different cultures that blend together into an eclectic neighbourhood with awesome food, and a shopping district that leaves much to the imagination. Most of the houses here were built in the 1950s and '60s, but there's been lots of new construction of brick-faced townhouses as well.
Low- and high-rise apartment buildings, and small bungalows on little yards make up the housing stock in Flemingdon Park, which is a culturally rich area of North York and has a population around 20,000. Whether its in multi-storey condos or seniors living buildings, rents here are on the low side to match the incomes of residents in the neighbourhood.
In Glen Park, renters will find some of the lowest rates in North York outside of Black Creek-Elia-Jane and Finch. There are several high-rise apartment buildings mixed in with well-maintained brick-faced houses built in the 1940s that are targeted to families with slightly higher incomes.
The majestic homes of Graydon house North York's middle- and middle-upper class citizens, who enjoy spectacular views over the Don Ravine. On the other hand, the northern slice of Graydon has high-rise apartments with low-rents targeted to new immigrants.
A small, close-knit neighbourhood that puts on community activities on a frequent basis, Henry Farm is a great place for families; however, there are few rentals available.
Hogg's Hollow is an off-the-beaten-path neighbourhood of homes built mainly in the 1920s that have been tastefully maintained over the years and are now occupied by owners with plenty of money. Rentals aren't normally available here.
Located on Islington, Humber Summit is home to mostly middle-income Italians and some Asians and South Asians living in tidy bungalows or two-storeys. Islington offers great shopping and restaurants, and an awesome Italian supermarket. Rents here are middle of the road.
Humberlea straddles Weston Road, which is the community's commercial district with restaurants and stores. The housing options include war-era bungalows on big yards, ranches and well-preserved turn-of-the-century houses near Acacia Park. Prices, including rents, tend to be average or a bit above.
Being that Lansing is located on Yonge, it has lots of new steel-and-glass condo towers, plus plenty of charming rowhouses and townhouses for renters and buyers alike. Despite being centrally located, it remains a rather quiet place to live, but the upscale nature of the housing here makes rents on the high side of average.
With Bathurst as Lawrence Manor's eastern border, the community is home to a significant Jewish population who enjoy an endless stretch of incredible food and shopping along Bathurst. The detached houses and condo towers in Lawrence Manor cater to residents of middle income. There are lots of seniors in the area due to the presence of the Baycrest Centre senior's living building.
Affordable prices and low rents have been attracting a young generation of people to Ledbury Park, although parts of the neighbourhood could still be considered "in transition" with re-development of older homes getting underway. On the other hand, there are streets lined with fantastic two-storey stone-faced homes that are owned by the area's richer residents who have stuck around for a while.
Townhouses and new condo towers are popping up along Steeles in Newtonbrook, while areas closer to Bathurst have some high-rise apartments with lower rents. The community is home to three shopping centres that are more like plazas than upscale malls, but certainly offer all the services and shops residents could want.
Located along the East Don, Parkwoods' name comes from its green spaces that make for excellent recreation areas for residents here, who live in ranch-style homes, as well as Tudor and Georgian revival houses. For people seeking lower rents or prices but don't need as much space, York Mills has some duplexes and townhouses available that are well-care-for and very desirable.
Victoria Park Village is sandwiched between Victoria Park Road and the East Don River and offers low-rent apartment buildings as much as quaint bungalows and two-storeys on its quiet streets. There's lots of shopping available, especially at Victoria Park Terrace and Elginton Square.
Luxury multi-story condos overlook family-friendly parks in Willowdale, located between Sheppard and Finch, and Bathurst and Bayview. Recreation-wise, the neighbourhood has an incredible civic centre, a great pool, lots of shopping, a performing arts centre and the renowned Earl Haig Secondary School, making it ideal for families. Besides the condo towers, Willowdale has lots of well-maintained brick two-storey homes with decent-sized lots, all of which carry higher than normal rents, which may be worth it considering the neighbourhood amenities.
Young families with a fair bit of money buy in Windfields, but rentals are hard to come by. Quiet streets and proximity to great schools make it a desirable, but expensive, neighbourhood. The closest shopping areas are in Don Mills and Bayview Village.
Reserved for the super-rich who live behind gates and walls, York Mills is a very desirable neighbourhood for people who can afford it. It's also home to the chic York Mills shopping centre, great parks and an awesome recreation centre.