Snow-capped mountains, wine country, ample skiing, crystal-clear lakes, fair weather, and growing cities are just a few of the reasons why British Columbia is Canada’s favourite province.
Having lived in Vancouver myself, I can attest to this. However, British Columbia is also one of the most expensive provinces in Canada.
Today, I’m going to show you some of the cheapest places to live in BC. If you’re planning on moving here, starting a business here, or a lengthy visit, you’ll want to give this post a read.
Vancouver, BC, is currently ranked as the 108th most-expensive city in the world, and Vancouver Island is also notably expensive. This may not seem like a big deal until you consider the fact that there are over four million cities in the world.
When it comes to property values, homes in BC are overall more expensive than homes anywhere else in Canada. According to the latest survey from Wowa, the average cost of homes sold in BC for August 2022 was $918,378.
The average household income in BC is $99,610, which is significantly higher than surrounding regions in BC.
That being said, there are still some affordable cities in BC. Let’s take a look at some of the most affordable cities in British Columbia!
I’ve included a brief overview of each city along with the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment and each city’s population (obtained from Numbeo).
1. Prince George, BC
- Average Rent For A One-Bedroom Apartment: $1,300
- Population: 84,809
- Why Live Here: Welcoming community, lots of natural parks, low cost of rent
Prince George, BC is one of the warmest cities in Canada and British Columbia, with fair weather around the year and relatively mild winters (at least, compared to Northern Canada). It also receives around 299 days of sunshine per year.
Good weather isn’t the only reason to live in Prince George, though. It’s one of the cheapest places to live in BC, with one-bedroom apartments going for $1,300 per month, which is less than half of what you’ll pay for a similar-sized apartment in Vancouver.
The average house price in Prince George was $396,903 as of July 2023, which is very affordable considering what you get in the area.
Situated in northern BC, the city boasts over 100 public parks, making it a great place for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you’re into biking, hiking, or kayaking, there are endless trails in Prince George. There are also eight large golf courses around the city.
Overall, the people are very welcoming and friendly. Plus, the local economy has been steadily growing, and there are a number of career opportunities here (especially in the forest products sector).
2. Coquitlam, BC
- Average Rent For A One-Bedroom Apartment: $1,875
- Population: 150,000
- Why Live Here: Proximity to Vancouver, and a combination of nature and urban development
Coquitlam is part of the larger Vancouver metro area and is located about an hour outside of downtown Vancouver. Although it’s not the cheapest place in BC, it is one of the cheapest suburbs of Vancouver, making it ideal for those who still want to be close to the busy economic center of British Columbia.
One of the most unique features of Coquitlam is the way that the city has been developed.
Even though it’s a very modern, urban city, it was constructed around nature, leaving plenty of green space, so it’s not suffocating. In recent years, Coquitlam has also become a popular location for tiny houses.
Tiny houses cost a fraction of what you’d expect to pay for a full-sized house and are perfect for minimalists looking to save money. They offer many of the modern amenities of a traditional home but utilize a compact, space-saving design. Plus, repairs are a lot cheaper!
- Related Reading: How Much Do Shipping Container Homes Cost?
3. Castlegar, BC
- Average Rent For A One-Bedroom Apartment: $1,725
- Population: 8,992
- Why Live Here: Outdoor activities, small community, beautiful views
If you like the idea of living in a super-small, tight-knit community, then Castlegar, BC may be the place for you. Located 306 km southeast of Kelowna and just north of the US border and Washington, Castlegar is home to just under 9,000 people.
Despite the small community, an increasing number of young families are moving to the city to take advantage of the affordable prices, the incredible views, and the sense of community that’s difficult to find in larger cities like Vancouver.
The one drawback of Castlegar is the lack of job and career opportunities. The primary industries in Castlegar are mining, forestry, and tourism.
Its geographic isolation could be problematic for those looking for a more diverse job market. That being said, it’s an excellent place for remote workers and freelancers to live!
4. Vernon, BC
- Average Rent For A One-Bedroom Apartment: $1,299
- Population: 44,519
- Why Live Here: Quiet communities, steady local economy, mountains and lakes
Vernon is a small city nestled between Swan and Kalamalka Lakes in the foothills of the Okanagan mountain range. With a growing population of just under 45,000, the city has been drawing young entrepreneurs and families thanks to its low cost of living.
House prices are fair for the area, and you can find small single-family homes for as low as $500,000 to $600,000.
Vernon provides the perfect balance between urban city living and nature. The city has plenty of restaurants, shopping, and even a few late-night bars and clubs.
However, just outside of the city, you’ll find endless opportunities for hiking, fishing, mountain biking, and pretty much any other activity you can think of.
The weather in Vernon is also incredibly temperate compared to northern BC. Summers are hot and humid, and the winters are bearable. The city is also located just north of Kelowna, which is a popular weekend destination for Vernon residents.
Like Prince George, the forest products industry is large in Vernon. However, the city also features a growing manufacturing sector as well as a budding tourism sector, fueled by the city’s recent population growth and access to national parks.
- Fun Fact – Vernon, BC is home to one of North America’s largest winter carnivals, which it hosts every year.
5. Hope, BC
- Average Rent For A One-Bedroom Apartment: $1,500
- Population: 6,686
- Why Live Here: Small community, beautiful views, natural trails, and affordable prices
If you’ve ever seen the classic action film, Rambo, then you’re looking at Hope, BC. Many of the “overseas” scenes in the movie were filmed in the mountains and forests of Hope.
It’s one of the smallest towns on this list, with just over 6,800 residents. That being said, it’s probably not the best place for those looking for a city vibe.
Hope is a small, tight-knit town. People don’t move here for job opportunities, but rather for the freedom and space.
Like Castlegar, it’s one of those towns that’s perfect for those who work remotely or operate an online business that doesn’t require them to live in a larger city.
The town centre is quaint and quiet, and the people are relatively friendly. It’s a popular destination for fishing, hunting, and other outdoor activities. It’s one of the only populated towns for miles around, so it gets a fair amount of travellers as well.
6. Cranbrook, BC
- Average Rent For A One-Bedroom Apartment: $1,133
- Population: 20,499
- Why Live Here: Close to an international airport, historic city, cheap rent
Cranbrook is located at the base of the Canadian Rockies, and it was once a small, historic mountain town. Today, it’s a growing city with a population of 20,499 residents.
Unlike some of the more isolated mountain towns I’ve mentioned on this list, Cranbrook is one of the few cities with an international airport. This makes it ideal for frequent travellers and won’t leave you landlocked.
The cost of living is quite affordable as well, with apartments ranging from $1,133 monthly for a one-bedroom up to $1,500 per month for larger multi-bedroom units.
The downtown area of the city has a bustling food scene and several small pubs and clubs, so there’s plenty to do on your night off.
If you’re looking for a more scenic experience, you can experience the grandeur of the Colorado Rockies with a short drive outside of the city.
As far as the local economy goes, Cranbrook offers a decent range of opportunities.
The hospitality and food-and-beverage industry always provides reliable employment here. In recent years, Cranbrook has also become a hub for some of Canada’s larger companies, thanks to low corporate taxes and is a business-friendly community.
7. Williams Lake, BC
- Average Rent For A One-Bedroom Apartment: $1,000
- Population: 11,906
- Why Live Here: Outdoor activities, pristine lakes, small community
Williams Lake, BC is described on the city’s official site as, “The Shangri-La of mountain biking.” While I’ve never been personally, the research that I did does indeed show that Williams Lake is a hub for mountain biking, hiking, and countless other outdoor activities.
House prices in Williams Lake are very affordable, and the average detached single-family home costs around $290,000 as of August 2023, according to Point2Homes.
Overall, Williams Lake is a relatively small town with less than 12,000 residents. However, it does offer a vibrant (if small) downtown area where you’ll find neighbourhood cafes, locally-owned retail shops, and frequent community events, giving you an opportunity to socialize and get to know the locals.
The local economy in Williams Lake is mostly centred around forestry, mining, and tourism. So, it’s not the greatest place to move to if you’re looking for a corporate job.
However, if you’re an online worker looking for a beautiful town with friendly locals and a very low cost of living, this town is definitely worth putting on your list.
8. Port Moody, BC
- Average Rent For A One-Bedroom Apartment: $2,050
- Population: 33,535
- Why Live Here: Quiet, close to Vancouver, lower cost of living
Similar to Coquitlam, Port Moody is one of the cheapest places to live near Vancouver.
The cost of rent in Port Moody is around $4-600 less per month than you’ll pay in Downtown Vancouver, which has made it one of the more attractive suburbs in recent years. With the city’s SkyTrain, Port Moody residents can commute downtown within 25 minutes, which allows them to save on fuel.
Living in Vancouver, I often visited Port Moody on the weekends for its arts culture.
There are a fair amount of local art galleries, and the city has a hip yet laid-back vibe. The small restaurants, bars, and local events here make it a really fun place to stay, so I’d definitely recommend it.
9. Port Alberni, BC
- Average Rent For A One-Bedroom Apartment: $1,216
- Population: 18,000
- Why Live Here: Low cost of living, center of Vancouver Island, lots of nature
Port Alberni has become a very popular town in recent years thanks to the fact that it has some of the most affordable real estate in Western Canada. It’s a mid-sized town that’s seen a 5% population growth over the past seven years, which means that it’s steadily growing.
The main appeal of Port Alberni is that it’s located in the center of Vancouver Island. It’s close to some of the island’s best hiking trails and sits on the edge of Harbor Quay.
If you’re into boating, there’s a large port marina where you can dock your boat, charter, or even rent a boat for the day.
The city gets a lot of rain, but also doesn’t see much snow. So, if you’re looking for somebody that’s warm, affordable, and has lots of outdoor space to offer, then Port Alberni is a town worth looking into.
The only downside of living in Port Alberni is that you’ll be a bit landlocked, given its location in the center of Vancouver Island.
10. Smithers, BC
- Average Rent For A One-Bedroom Apartment: $1,250
- Population: 5,378
- Why Live Here: It’s very affordable, it’s isolated and private
Smithers is a small town located in the center of British Columbia, right off the Yellowhead Highway, which spans the width of the entire country. Because of this, Smithers has become a popular stop-off town for truckers and road-trippers.
The town itself is very small and doesn’t offer much in the way of work or community. However, the cost of living here is incredibly cheap, so it’s a good place to live if you want to save some money and focus on yourself.
House prices in Smithers are quite fair as well. Small two-bedroom cottages range between $300,000 and $400,000, while large two-storey homes typically range from $500,000 to $800,000, according to listings from REMAX.
11. New West, BC
- Average Rent For A One-Bedroom Apartment: $1,750
- Population: 78,916
- Why Live Here: Rapidly-growing city, proximity to Vancouver, more affordable housing, great community
New Westminster (more often called “New West”) is located right along the Fraser River and is just a short drive from downtown Vancouver. It’s one of the more affordable suburbs to live in outside of Vancouver, and you can still find some apartments for less than $2,000.
The city has grown immensely over the past few years as Vancouver residents have chosen to move away from the city in search of more affordable housing and a friendlier, small-town atmosphere.
New West has over 45 parks and lots of open, green spaces, which give it a good balance of urban and natural.
The local food, hospitality, and arts scene in New West are one of its best features. You’ll find cuisine from all over the world here, local art galleries, and creative spaces.
According to British Columbia’s government site, tax rates in the province vary from 5.06% (for those who earn less than $43,070) up to 20.5% (for those who earn $227,091 or more).
Where Is The Most Affordable City To Live In BC?
Our list shows Williams Lake is the most affordable city to live in BC. If you’re looking for something closer to the mainland, then Calgary is another lower-cost city to live in that offers a growing economy and a more urban feel.
It’s no secret that Vancouver is one of the most expensive cities in Canada (topped only by Toronto). The average house price was $1.2 million in June 2023, which is more than many can afford.
That being said, Vancouver has a growing number of suburbs that offer proximity to the city with lower rent and a lower cost of living.
Some of the most affordable places to live near Vancouver, BC, include:
- New West
- Port Moody
- Surrey Central
Benefits of living in a small town in bC
If you’re used to a city lifestyle, moving to a small, affordable town can be a big change.
As you can see, one of the main benefits of living in a small town in BC is the affordable cost of living. Places like Smithers, Williams Lake, and Prince George offer a far lower cost of living compared to Vancouver and its surrounding suburbs.
Here are some other benefits that may help you make the decision.
Larger towns and cities are full of people. However, this doesn’t always correlate with a healthy social life. In fact, a recent study by the World Economic Forum revealed that feelings of loneliness can actually be worse in cities.
The sheer amount of people often results in the vast majority of people simply walking by each other without much notice.
In smaller towns, there’s often a stronger sense of community. The residents know each other, see each other regularly, and are often friendlier.
More Nature and outdoor activities
Living in the city (or even a larger town, for that matter) can often feel stifling, especially if you’re somebody who enjoys the beautiful nature that British Columbia has to offer.
Smaller towns have often remained small due to their proximity to difficult-to-settle landscapes, such as mountains, valleys, and forests.
If you enjoy the peace and solitude of nature, BC’s small towns have a lot to offer.
Drawbacks of living in a small town in BC
While there are certainly some beneficial aspects to small-town living in BC, there are also a few drawbacks that you should consider before you uproot and move.
Less variety when shopping
If you’ve lived in a large town or city for the majority of your life, then you’re likely used to having options when you go out to shop. From buying a cup of coffee and going out to dinner to shopping for the latest tech, there are always businesses competing for your attention.
In a smaller town, there may only be one cafe, two or three restaurants, and a single general store, which can limit your options.
Fewer Job and business opportunities
Small towns often remain small because they lack the job and business opportunities for residents to make a living. This is why many children grow up and leave these small towns to find work in larger cities.
If you’re a remote worker or run an online business, though, this shouldn’t be an issue.
Travel can be more difficult
Smaller towns in BC tend to be far away from airports, train stations, and major highways. This can make travel more difficult and costly compared to cities that are located close to airports, allowing residents to easily travel to other cities.
In terms of natural beauty, British Columbia offers a long list of towns and small cities nestled in the mountain ranges, valleys, and lakes of the province. Larger cities offer growing economies, airports, and bustling communities.
Although the province is the most expensive in Canada, there are still a number of cheap places to live in BC.
If you work remotely, then you don’t necessarily need to live close to a major city centre. To learn more, check out my post on the best work-from-home jobs for Canadians next!