Living In Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario – Prepare For Canada
Moving to Canada is a big decision. And choosing the right city to settle in is another crucial decision. The city you select will affect your career, earning potential, living expenses and quality of life. And, it can greatly determine your future success in Canada. Kitchener-Waterloo region is one of many cities to consider living in Ontario.
Choosing the right city to call home is a decision you cannot take lightly. Researching your destination city in Canada is vital. Importantly, you need to understand the local job market and the housing market because these two factors will impact your financial success. For example, you need to understand if your skills match the local labour market to secure a job. And, you need to understand how affordable the local housing market is. Housing costs in Canada vary. For example, for the same cost of renting a small apartment in Toronto or Vancouver, you could rent a large house in a smaller city.
Prepare for Canada can guide you with helpful information about living and working in the Kitchener-Waterloo region.
About Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario
The Kitchener-Waterloo region is an active, thriving place to live, work, study and invest. Immigrants come from all over the world to make the region their home in Canada. It has a thriving technology sector, is along a major highway and is the 4th largest Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) in Ontario. Commonly referred to as KW or the Tri-cities, the CMA includes the three bustling cities of Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo plus, four scenic rural townships: North Dumfries, Wellesley, Wilmot, and Woolwich.
KW is a popular and affordable alternative to living in Toronto and offers a mix of big city benefits and small town charm. From KW, you can drive to the nearby cities of Toronto, London, Brampton, Toronto, and Hamilton in about one hour. The area is close to nearby airports including Region of Waterloo International Airport, London International Airport, and Toronto Pearson International Airport.
How Many People Live in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario?
Over 623,000 people live in Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge (as of 2020). More than half live in Kitchener. The population has been steadily increasing by about 1.5% – 2% per year. However, over the past few years, it has been one of the fastest-growing regions in Ontario. It is expected to reach 729,000 people by 2031.
How to Find a Job & Build a Career in Kitchener-Waterloo
KW’s Local Economy
The KW region has a diverse economy that covers a range of sectors from manufacturing to high-tech industries. The area historically also has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Ontario.
The city of Waterloo has significant insurance and high-tech sectors. Kitchener is known for its manufacturing industry.
The region is home to world-class employment and the employment rate is one of the highest in Ontario. With a strong manufacturing base and other industries to provide meaningful employment, it is also a fast-growing hub for:
- Technology and Innovation
- Advanced Manufacturing
- Food Processing.
Major Employers in KW
The KW region has many large employers such as Sun Life Financial, the University of Waterloo, Manulife Financial, Sandvine and Wilfrid Laurier University.
The city is also home to three well-known think tanks: the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, the Institute for Quantum Computing, and the Centre for International Governance Innovation. Together with Kitchener and Cambridge, Waterloo is part of Canada’s Technology Triangle (CTT), a joint economic development initiative that markets the region internationally.
Some of the area’s top employers include:
- Allianz Global Assistance Canada
- BlackBerry Limited
- Equitable Life Insurance Company of Canada, The
- Gore Mutual Insurance Company
- Home Hardware Stores Limited
- OpenText Corporation
- System1 Canada ULC
- Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc. / TMMC
- Waterloo North Hydro Inc.
- WS Audiology Canada Inc.
Career Pathways in KW
The job growth rate is on the rise. Total employment is close to 290,000 (2017). The region has the 10th largest workforce and 4th largest manufacturing workforce in Canada. The top industries that are hiring are technology, manufacturing, insurance, and health care.
You can search for jobs through local recruiters such as Randstad Canada, RobertHalf, Biznets Professional Recruitment, Adecco Staffing, and MaxSys.
The Kitchener-Waterloo Housing Market
A key priority when moving to KW includes finding the perfect place to call home. And, it’s common for new immigrants to rent or live in a short-term rental before buying a house in KW.
Is Housing Expensive in Waterloo, Ontario?
Waterloo has a range of housing types with various sizes, characteristics, and prices. Relatively, you’ll find that housing prices are affordable, lower than in Toronto and the surrounding area, but higher than some other southern Ontario communities located away from Toronto.
Finding a Place to Rent in Kitchener-Waterloo
The amount you will pay for rent will depend on if you live in Kitchener or Waterloo. The average rent in Kitchener is $1449 for a 1 Bedroom, $1882 for a 2 Bedroom, and $1314 for a 3 Bedroom. The average rent in Waterloo is $2375 for a 2- Bedroom, and $2350 for a 3- Bedroom.
Use Rentals for Newcomers to search for available rental units in the KW area. Here, you can also find current rental prices. This is helpful since prices can change often.
When renting a home or apartment, it’s also important to consider renter’s insurance. This will protect your family, belongings, and finances from unforeseen events and liability. While renters’ insurance is optional, many landlords require it as part of your lease agreement. Get more information about renting a home: Renting in Canada: What Newcomers Need to Know
Buying a Home in Kitchener-Waterloo
The KW region offers more affordable housing compared to other larger cities in Ontario. But, prices are on the rise. According to Royal LePage, the median price of a home is $742,800 (Q3 2021). This is a 25% year-over-year increase. The median cost to buy a single-family detached home is $871, 100 and the cost to buy a condo is $419,100.
To buy a home, contact a realtor in the area, who will guide you through the home-buying process. Find out more about buying your first home in Canada: First Time Home Buyer: Newcomer Tips
Driving & Public Transit in Kitchener-Waterloo
Driving in Kitchener-Waterloo
Kitchener-Waterloo is conveniently located close to highway 401, providing quick assess to other major cities in the region. Highways 7 and 8 also pass through the area. It is common for residents to commute in and out of the city for work.
Drivers must have a valid Ontario drivers’ licence. You must be at least 16 to drive and pass the graduated licensing system to get a full G licence. You require a Class A or D licence to operate commercial vehicles.
For information about driving, see Driving in Canada: 10 Essential Facts to Know.
Get more information about driving in Canada:
Driving Test in Canada: A Full Guide
Tips for Winter Driving to Ensure Your Safety
The Grand River Transit system operates a bus and light rail system within the KW region. For maps, routes, and schedules, click here.
The cost to ride public transit varies depending on the route, method, and distance. Click here for fares and routes. And with GO Bus and Train services, you can live in the region and still have quick and convenient access to Toronto.
The KW area is diverse and welcomes immigrants from around the globe. You can find settlement agencies across the region to help you adapt to your new community and access other services. Refugees and new immigrants can use services such as:
YMCA Immigrant Services, and
Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre.
If you want to have your English language skills assessed or get language support, you can access many local programs. For example, Conestoga College, St. Louis Adult Learning Centres, English at First, and Renison University College all offer Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) classes. Work-specific programs are also available.
Personal Finance & Banking
All local banks in Waterloo have programs to help newcomers open a bank account and get a credit card. You can learn about getting a mortgage, personal loans, and investments. Visit a local bank branch to start the process.
Get more banking tips for newcomers:
Top 10 Financial Steps to Take Before You Leave for Canada
Move to Canada | Transferring Cash & Valuables
Open a Bank Account Before Arriving in Canada
Waterloo’s Education System
There are many learning opportunities for your children in Kitchener Waterloo Region. There are separate boards for catholic and public education.
Elementary and High School Education
Throughout the Waterloo region, there are 121 schools – 103 elementary schools and 16 high schools. There are 46 Catholic elementary schools and five Catholic high schools. In addition, Kitchener-Waterloo has several private, adult, and continuing education institutions.
Post Secondary Institutions
The region is home to two universities and one technical college:
University of Waterloo – well known for its computer science, mathematics, and engineering programs.
Wilfrid Laurier University – known for its business and economic programs.
Conestoga College – consistently rated as one of the best colleges in Ontario.
Read more about education in Canada:
Schooling in Canada | A Look at the Education System
Higher Education Offers Benefits to Newcomers
Where To Get Medical Care in Kitchener-Waterloo
There are four hospitals that serve the KW region including Grand River Hospital, Freeport Campus, St. Mary’s General Hospital, and Cambridge Memorial Hospital. In case of an emergency call 9-1-1. This number is the same no matter where you live in Canada.
For prescription drugs and some services that Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) does not cover, you can pay for private health insurance plans. Some employers offer third-party health insurance as part of their benefits package. Otherwise, you can take out an individual policy. For more information about health care in the Kitchern-Waterloo region, click here.
How to Find A Family Doctor in Kitchener-Waterloo
The KW region, like many other areas in Ontario, has a shortage of doctors, so finding one can be difficult. Start looking for a physician that is taking on new patients as soon as you arrive in the region. Register with Health Care Connect to find a doctor. Learn more about health care in Canada: Steps to Access Free Health Care in Canada
What is Day to Day Life Like in Kitchener-Waterloo?
Things to Do in Waterloo
Waterloo is a great place to work, go to school, and raise a family. There are many things for new immigrants to do for fun and leisure. The region has historic landmarks, a broad selection of excellent restaurants, thriving farmers’ markets, art galleries, museums, antique shops, and factory outlets.
Public Spaces & Attractions
The top attraction in the region is the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest. Each year people since 1969, people love to celebrate the second-largest Oktoberfest in the world. It is also home to many other events such as the Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Festival, Kitchener Blues Fest, and Kultrun World Music Festival.
Restaurants & Nightlife
The KW area is filled with diverse restaurants, pubs, and bars. There are many locations featuring European and German cuisine. The downtown area in Kitchener and Waterloo are great places to get a bite to eat.
Nature & Natural Landscapes
Waterloo Region has many parks and trails along the Grand River for residents and visitors to explore. Larger parks, like Waterloo Park and RIM Park, have ball diamonds, sports fields, picnic areas, public washrooms and access to transit and parking.
Sporting Events & Concerts
The region is home to the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League and the KW Titans of the National Basketball League of Canada. The entertainment scene offers a wealth of live theatre, concerts by local and visiting artists, and performances by the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony.
Culture & Diversity in Kitchener-Waterloo
According to the 2016 Statistics Canada census, 119,335 immigrants live in the region. Approximately 23% of residents are immigrants living in the three cities of Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge. The region has the 8th highest proportion of immigrants in the province. Between 3,000 and 4,000 new immigrants move to the area annually.
Since the region has German settlement roots dating back to 1916, there is also a large German community. And, there are more than 50,000 people in the region with German ethnic origins.
Most immigrants were born in the United Kingdom, followed by India and Portugal.
In recent years (2011 to 2016), newcomers have come from:
- India (13.1%)
- China (10%)
- Syria (7.5%)
- Iraq (6.1%)
- Pakistan (4.5%)
Places of Worship
Waterloo Region is home to many places of worship, providing faith communities across the city with reflective spaces. For a list of churches and other places of worship in the Waterloo Region, click here.
The Weather in the KW Region
The region has a humid continental climate with four distinct seasons and large differences in temperature. It has warm summer months and moderate winters.
Winter usually lasts from mid-December to mid-April and this is when you can expect snowfall. The average high in January is -3.1°C and in July rises to 25.9°C.
Common Questions Immigrants Ask About Living in KW
Is it Expensive to Live in Kitchener-Waterloo?
Housing in the KW area is less expensive compared to other cities in Ontario. A major benefit is the average salary is comparable to what you get in big cities, so the overall cost of living is lower. There is ample opportunity to find affordable housing in KW and surrounding communities.
What are the Pros and Cons of Moving to Kitchener-Waterloo?
Kitchener-Waterloo offers new immigrants many benefits. It is a safe community that is affordable and offers many great festivals and cultural even. It’s also close to other cities. You can also live in surrounding communities, with many housing options. One drawback people often express is it is a student city because of the two universities. Traffic can also be heavy during rush hour.
Living in Kitchener-Waterloo vs. Toronto – What’s the Difference?
Many people compare cities in Ontario to Toronto when thinking about where to move. The KW region offers many of the same career opportunities as Toronto, especially in technology, but the cost of living is about 20% cheaper. You are only a one-hour drive from Toronto, so you can still enjoy the big city amenities without the higher cost.
For more information, tools, and free webinars about living in Canada visit our Settling in Canada resource page. We’ll help you to settle successfully!