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Ottawa vs Gatineau: The Great Debate

Posted on: February 28th, 2016 by Chris Scott

Ottawa vs Gatineau

When relocating to Ottawa there is lots to consider. Some clients are always debating between purchasing in Gatineau or Ottawa. I have put together some information for you to consider.

Living in Ottawa means living in the National Capital Region (NCR), which includes Gatineau, Quebec. Gatineau is so oft-ignored, but people who’ve lived in Ottawa for a long time have slowly discovered that in addition to a downtown that has that Old Montréal feel and some pretty amazing restaurants, they also have heavily subsidized daycare, lower rent, and the drinking age is 18.

But let’s focus on that rent thing; lower rent is directly proportional to lower-cost housing. Once you’ve made that connection, you’re browsing houses in Gatineau and finding amazing potential just a quick zip over the bridge. Tons of people work in Ottawa and live in Gatineau. Do they know something you don’t?

In a word: NO. In more words, here’s a basic breakdown of Ottawa versus Gatineau.

The Obvious: Cheaper Real Estate

There’s absolutely no doubt that Gatineau prices are more attractive than Ottawa’s. The average Gatineau home is over a $140,000 less when compared to Ottawa.   That’s a pack your bags and run for the Gatineau Hills difference. Or is it?

The Not-So-Obvious: Taxes

This is a tricky analysis because it depends on your income. The Cole’s Notes version is that if you work in Ottawa and live in Gatineau, you will pay higher taxes to the tune of 5-10% depending on your income bracket. Does this make up for the gap between real estate prices? Over time, yes. Shorter term no and from a service perspective overall you get better value in Ottawa.


That’s the language used in Gatineau. While part of the NCR, when you cross the Ottawa River, vous vous trouvez dans la belle province. For some of you, this may not be an issue; however, this is a major consideration. Think about going to the doctor or seeking care at a hospital. While it’s important to note that you can get medical care in Ottawa as a Gatineau resident, if it’s 2 a.m. and your child has a fever, are you going to drive over the bridge or are you going to the closest place for care? Furthermore, consider that all signage is in French, including safety and road warnings. Not knowing any French could become more than just a simple nuisance.

But, Subsidized Daycare?

Subsidized daycare is no joke. At $7 per day versus $35-40 per day in Ottawa, that difference alone can be enough to tip the scales. However, the waiting list for public daycare in Gatineau is years-long, so after one year of parental leave, you’re still looking at the same cost for daycare, if not more than in Ottawa. Private daycares in Gatineau can’t compete with the $7 subsidized rate so they don’t and their rates are the same or higher than in Ottawa. You can’t simply move to Gatineau with the mindset that you’ll automatically qualify for daycare.


Health care is significantly less available in Gatineau, which is why so many residents retain or seek Ottawa services (footnote: This extends to emergency services so while you may take small comfort in the fact that getting a family doctor in Ottawa is equally challenging, the number of clinics and emergency services in Ottawa can capably meet residents’ needs, while also handling the significant and somewhat terrifying overflow from Gatineau. Asking the scary question of how much your health care is worth to you must factor into any decision to move to Gatineau.


If you are military and you need to sell your house quick, Ottawa is the clear winner here. The market is more expensive but has historically always had quicker resale and stronger demand. For military clients this a huge consideration.

Relocating to Ottawa or Gatineau?

If you are looking to work with a Realtor on either side of the border let me know. I am not licensed in Quebec but have some great agents that are. I have even had a house hunting trip in the past where the buyer was looking in both Ottawa and Gatineau .I can make this happen and co-ordinate everything for you. It is a challenge on a house hunting trip because of the tight timelines but it is possible. I can always be reached on my cell at 613-863-6999 for all your real estate needs.



5 Responses

  1. Francois says:

    Best of both worlds is Orleans, Ottawa where
    – house prices are lowest in Ottawa
    – great bilingual schools
    – great neighbourhoods
    – language spoken is 50/50
    – no need to pay extra high “Quebec” taxes
    – no need to worry about which language your children schools must be
    – no need to worry about bad health care like in Gatineau
    – great public transportation needed instead of two

  2. Gilles says:

    Here is what I know about Gatineau. I always lived in the Ottawa region all my life but moved to Gatineau in 2013. I keep a serious log of my expenses
    Here is what I realized
    Cheaper Real Estate: yes, when we purchased our condo we paid $110K less than the same condo in Ottawa.
    Bilingualism: yes, now I don’t have any children in school nor can I take advantage of very low price daycare
    Healthcare: I found a family doctor within 3 years of my move, while in the Ottawa region it took 10 yrs. At this moment doctors are next to none in Ontario or Quebec. I know several people who had open-heart surgery in Ottawa even if they lived in Gatineau.
    Taxes are higher yes but this depends on your income, for us, the difference is negligible (both retired)
    Property taxes are very similar.
    Car insurance is lower by 50%.
    Electricity is a less: Ottawa 11.57 ¢/kWh Gatineau 5.20 ¢/kWh
    Water: Ottawa average per household is $70 a month.
    Gatineau: we do not pay as of yet, it’s included on our city property taxes.
    Groceries: In general it is less expensive in Gatineau versus Ottawa and I compare product by product, brand for brand.
    Beer in Quebec is lower
    Wine is more expensive
    Automobile fuel: comparable, this depends on the day of the week.
    Overall for us, it is cheaper to live in Gatineau, but if your family income is over $150K then you have to rethink the numbers.

  3. John says:

    I just moved from Alberta and in the process of retiring.

    I am currently living I Gatineau but evaluating the possibility of relocating to Ottawa.

    This is great information!
    Thank you.

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