An annual ranking of Canadian cities has placed Belleville in eighth place of the top places in which to retire.
Toronto’s MoneySense magazine ranks municipalities using weighted criteria, including the wealth, economy, health, weather, crime and culture.
And, for what’s believed to be the first time, Belleville also cracked the magazine’s top 100 list of the best places in Canada in which to live, appearing at number 92. It’s also 34th on the list of places with the lowest taxes.
The ranking for retirement-friendly cities handed the top place to Ottawa, followed by Toronto and Oakville.
It listed Belleville’s average value of primary real estate at $333,335 with an average property tax of 2.4 per cent. Though provincial statistics and city staff have noted Belleville has a shortage of family doctors, the magazine pegged the city’s rate of coverage at 137 family doctors per 100,000 residents.
The weather, with a temperature above 20 C on about 117 days per year, also helped Belleville’s showing.
After the top-three cities for retirement came Burlington in fourth place, followed by Carleton Place, Milton and Cornwall. Trailing Belleville were New Tecumseth in Simcoe County, north of Toronto, and Newmarket.
The magazine studied 415 places in choosing its best places to live. Belleville fared the best in the immediate area. Prince Edward County was ranked 118th, Quinte West 151st, Brighton 284th and Trent Hills 286th.
The 20917 list put Belleville in 111th place, Quinte West in 60th, Brighton in 96th and Prince Edward County in 101st.
MoneySense editors did not respond by press time to requests for comment.
At Belleville’s city hall, development and tourism assistant Elisha Purchase welcomed the news.
“I look forward to taking the momentum and running with it,” she said.
She attributed the top-100 showing to recent improvements to public transit, parks, and residential development. She also said Belleville’s central location and improvements to jobs, education and infrastructure could also be factors.
Purchase said such rankings can affect cities directly if cities capitalize upon them “and there is momentum.”
“I would not say that we directly market to attract seniors, however we recognize that we do have a senior population here and we have services that cater directly to their needs,” she said.
Those services include transit upgrades, park and trail access, programs at the Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre, and active doctor recruitment.
At the Belleville and District Chamber of Commerce, chief executive Jill Raycroft said she and her staff, too, will cite the magazine’s ratings.
“We take advantage of a ranking like that. There’s an opportunity, for sure.
“Anybody who’s reading that now is going to say, ‘Oh, what about Belleville?’
“It also helps our own community have faith,” said Raycroft.
“It’s almost like looking in your own backyard and saying, ‘You know what? It really is pretty nice.’”
Positive ratings have a greater potential to help the cities, she said.
“You kind of get lost in the shuffle when it’s a lesser ranking.”
Favourable rankings are also an incentive for residents and businesses to stay in the area, Raycroft said.
She said Belleville benefits from the Bay of Quinte Regional Marketing Board’s efforts to market the region as a whole, not just municipalities.
Raycroft said Prince Edward County’s known as “the place to play; Belleville’s the place to stay.”
She said it will be interesting to see if the recent ratings become an issue in the municipal election campaign. The election is Oct. 22.
The coverage hinges upon such things as health care, housing and other standards of living, she said, and those topics could fuel debate among prospective city leaders.
“I think our biggest challenge right now is finding people to work – who have skilled trades, who are available,” Raycroft said.
She said she’s continually meeting people who want to come to Belleville to start a business, but there must be a sufficient workforce.
“We have an affordable housing shortage right now,” she added.
Having a strong housing market “is a great problem to have,” continued Raycroft, “but with that kind of vacancy rate it does increase rent and the lack of access to affordable housing.”
The rankings are online at moneysense.ca.