Where to Buy Now: 5 best neighbourhoods for growing families

Where to Buy Now: 5 best neighbourhoods for growing families

With apologies to Tolstoy, happy families are not all alike. When it comes to where they live, some are happy because their kids go to top schools or have access to great sports facilities. Others are glad they have a big house with a mortgage they can afford. Still others put a priority on short commuting times — after all, it’s hard to be happy when you barely get home in time to put the kids to bed. With all that in mind, here are a few Ottawa ’hoods to suit every type of family, from sporty to scholarly.

If you’re in any doubt that this is a family ’hood, look at the stats. The average family size is 3.2 people, and 31 per cent of the population is under 20. That explains the plethora of schools — English, French, public, Catholic, elementary, secondary — in Avalon itself and just north of the ’hood. (The sheer diversity of schools arises from the fact that this is one of Ottawa’s most bilingual neighbourhoods, with 60 per cent claiming English as their first official language spoken and 35 per cent claiming French.) The area is also well stocked with kid-friendly amusements, including the 15 athletic fields at the Millennium Sports Park and the big slide, climbable pirate ship, and multiple splash pads at the Millennium Water Park. And if you want to move your family into a newish house, this is a good place to look; according to Statistics Canada, fewer than 1 per cent of the ’hood’s 7,850 houses were built before 1990.

Borders: Mer Bleue Road, Innes Road, Frank Kenny Road, Wall Road
Condo prices (monthly average): $226,194 to $274,993
Condos sold last year: 105
Non-condo prices (monthly average): $445,033 to $529,640
Non-condos sold last year: 523
People who go to work by car: 75%

The neighbourhood of Avalon offers plenty of parks and the housing stock is relatively new. Photo by RuivoBrown

The big drawback of Barrhaven has always been the commute — Farhaven, is it’s known, is a hefty 22 kilometres from our sample MLS property to city hall. However, since the one-time bedroom community is now home to employers ranging from software firms to construction companies, it’s increasingly possible to skip the daily Transitway trek. “Barrhaven is blowing up. It just continues to amaze me,” says Rob Marland, a sales representative with Ottawa’s Royal LePage Performance Realty Brokerage. In Longfields/Woodroffe Estates, you’ll likely have lots of choice: last year, 277 freehold houses changed hands there. Just be sure to move quickly: the average number of days on the market last year ranged from a high of 34 to a low of just 11. If you want to send your kids to John McCrae Secondary School, which earned the third-highest ranking among the city’s non-private high schools in the latest Fraser Institute survey, look for a place in the northwest corner of the neighbourhood, west of Longfields Drive.

Borders: Greenbank Road, CN Rail line, Fallowfield Road, Woodroffe Avenue, Strandherd Drive
Condo prices (monthly average): $244,390 to $289,900
Condos sold last year: 56
Non-condo prices (monthly average): $387,586 to $474,241
Non-condos sold last year: 277
People who go to work by car: 73%

“We’ve put many families in Beacon Hill because of the schools,” says Marland. Not only is the neighbourhood’s Colonel By Secondary School Ottawa’s top-ranked high school in the Fraser Institute survey, but it’s currently the only public secondary school in the city to offer the International Baccalaureate program (although Merivale High School has applied to become the second, starting in the 2019–20 school year). Sure, the IB program is open to students from across the city, but who wants to shuttle their kids from Kanata or Orleans to Beacon Hill every morning? And, sure, the catchment area for Colonel By’s non-IB program extends to Rothwell Heights, but house prices there are out of reach for many families. Aside from Colonel By, attractions for families in the area include the Richcraft Sensplex with its four ice rinks, Ski Hill Park and, a short drive away, the Splash Wave Pool and the Louis Riel all-season sports dome.

Borders: Rothwell Drive, Delong Drive, Kaymar Drive, Ottawa River, Shefford Road, Montreal Road
Condo prices (monthly average): $191,850 to $247,890
Condos sold last year: 65
Non-condo prices (monthly average): $509,733 to $674,689
Non-condos sold last year: 71
People who go to work by car: 65%

Meet the Neighbours in Beacon Hill North
Barb is a gender-issues researcher and Doug is a trade-policy analyst with the federal government. They moved into a 1970s four-bedroom bungalow in Beacon Hill last summer.
We talked to them about why they chose Beacon Hill North, and why they love their ‘hood.

Barb and Doug with their children in their Beacon Hill North home. Photo by RuivoBrown

Our street: Buchanan Crescent is a winding connecting street — it’s fantastic if you have young kids because you never have any through traffic.

Previous residences: We owned a townhouse in Mechanicsville and then travelled a bit while on parental leave. When we returned to Ottawa, we gave the west end a shot by renting a two-storey century home near the corner of Byron and Kirkwood. For the price of the turnkey home we purchased here, we would have gotten a tiny fixer-upper with who knows what kind of foundation problems in that area.

Prime motivators: Access to green space was big. The Greenbelt starts pretty much on the other side of the kids’ school — there are ski trails, we’ve been snowshoeing. We hear blue jays and woodpeckers; I’ve seen coyote poop. And also schools — the ease with which I was able to sign both my kids up for the French school here. And my sister and her family live two kilometres away, which was a draw.

Favourite places in the ’hood: Dominion City Brewery. They have a tasting bar and a little restaurant. They have good, creative beers. And the library, and the wave pool is close. And there’s just a lot of parks and trails. No real commercial destinations, but I don’t miss it so far.

This ’hood, not far from the Civic Hospital, has a lot of similarities to its neighbour, including house prices and access to Nepean High School and nearby Westboro Montessori School. However, there are some salient differences. First, if heritage charm isn’t your style, roughly half the housing units in this area were built after 1960, with a solid concentration of 1960s’ and 1970s’ houses west of Golden Avenue. Second, it has its own appealing recreational attractions, including the busy Dovercourt Recreation Centre with its indoor pool, and easy access to Westboro Beach and the Sir John A. Macdonald Trail for cross-country skiing. And third, even though Richmond Road can get congested, this neighbourhood is less plagued by Queensway noise than Civic Hospital is, and residents don’t have to deal with hospital-related traffic. If all goes according to plan, there will be two LRT stations to the north (Dominion and Westboro) by 2025.

Borders: Sherbourne Road, Richmond Road, Churchill Avenue North, Carling Avenue
Condo prices (monthly average): $328,800 to $761,633
Condos sold last year: 22
Non-condo prices (monthly average): $689,000 to $1,259,714
Non-condos sold last year: 67
People who go to work by car: 64%

This semi-detached house on Dovercourt in Laurentian View recently sold in just 6 days. Photo by Britanny Gawley

Also in this series: 
Where to Buy Now: 5 best neighbourhoods for first-time buyers
Where to Buy Now: 5 best neighbourhoods if cost is no issue
Where to Buy Now: 5 best neighbourhoods for retirees

Admittedly, this isn’t the ’hood for families on a tight budget. All those trees and heritage houses (83 per cent of the dwellings were built before 1960) don’t come cheap. And it can be hard to snap up one of those rambling old houses: according to Anneke Cundasawmy — a sales representative with RE/MAX Hallmark Realty Group, Brokerage who spent part of her teen years in the ’hood — many houses sell quickly to people who grew up in the area and want to give their kids the same apple-pie childhood they enjoyed. If you’re of an alternative-education bent, Parkdale Montessori School is a private elementary school on the ’hood’s northern edge. On weekends, the bunnies and lambs of the Central Experimental Farm are practically in your backyard. Older kids can practise their backhand at the nearby Elmdale Tennis Club and attend well-ranked Nepean High School. (Though Carlington, profiled earlier in this article, is also in the Nepean High School catchment area.)

Borders: Island Park Drive, the Queensway, Bayswater Avenue, Carling Avenue
Condo prices (monthly average): $328,000 to $665,000
Condos sold last year: 5
Non-condo prices (monthly average): $717,267 to $1,177,000
Non-condos sold last year: 35
People who go to work by car: 54%