Salmon Arm ranks as the best place to live in the entire region according to an annual survey by MoneySense Magazine.
The city made a significant recovery in the ranking from last year’s data. In 2014, Salmon Arm places 64 out of the 201 Canadian cities overall and 33 out of 140 in the small cities category.
In 2013, Salmon Arm placed 122 out of 200 and was outranked by all its neighbours including Kamloops, Kelowna and Vernon. In 2012, Salmon Arm had ranked 61 out of 190 cities.
This year’s rebound places Salmon Arm ahead of Kamloops at 75, Kelowna at 92, Vernon at 125 and Penticton at 143.
A major factor in Salmon Arm’s decline in the rankings last year was due to a lack of population growth. In 2012, the population growth was 9.1 per cent. In 2013 this dropped to 2.39 per cent. This year, that number moved back up to 6.8 per cent.
Economic factors are Salmon Arm’s weaker areas with an average household income of $65,631, which is in the bottom 40 communities. Topping the average household income is Wood Buffalo, Alta., with an average household income of $187,772, West Vancouver at $180,205 and Oakville, Ont. at $145,694.
Salmon Arm Mayor Nancy Cooper says she finds the survey’s information interesting, but tries to be cautious about drawing conclusions.
“The population growth was surprising to me, as it tends to show a growing community, that we are doing better economically. But some of the other data showed our economy was in the weaker range. It’s an interesting split and I’m not sure what conclusion you could draw from that.”
Housing costs are also a factor, with relatively high prices for the size of the community. The average house price in Salmon Arm is listed as $310,215. Prices tend to be lower in communities of similar size to Salmon Arm. For example, Matane, Que.’s average house price is $139,660, Camrose, Alta. has an average price of $233,456, in Cobourg, Ont. the average price is $250,881 and in Yorkton, Sask. the average price is $298,953.
Salmon Arm scored well in the climate categories, the number of doctors and also a relatively low crime rate.
Cooper stressed that some of what makes Salmon Arm desirable is the environment, the parks, the thriving cultural scene and the spirit of volunteerism.
“The city has invested in upgrading parks, Blackburn Park, Jackson Park and in trails and the art gallery. These are all very important things people want to see in the community they live in,” she said. “There is a community spirit here that you don’t see in a lot of places, the Hockeyville response shows that. We are an enthusiastic community where people get involved and invest in making Salmon Arm a better place.”
The mayor also pointed to the enviable position Salmon Arm is in when it comes to health care, which boosted its ranking in the survey.
“Unlike other communities of our size, we don’t have a problem attracting doctors; they want to come here. The hospital is high quality. That’s an important factor for people, whether you are looking at it from the perspective of a young person wanting to raise a family here or people looking for a place to retire.”
MoneySense indicates there’s a trend towards growth in smaller communities.
“In that way, many of these communities aren’t just great places to live, they’re Canada’s best-kept secrets,” says Mark Brown from MoneySense.
St. Albert, Alta earned the number-one ranking, followed by Calgary, Alta. and Strathcona County, Alta.
Port Alberni received the lowest overall ranking in the country.