Editor’s Letter: The perilous practice of neighbourhood rankings

Editor’s Letter: The perilous practice of neighbourhood rankings

There are no bad neighbourhoods in a city as vibrant as Toronto. But, depending on your metrics, some perform better than others

Photo by Daniel Ehrenworth

Listen closely and you can almost hear the murmurous rage: Toronto Life is at it again. They’ve ranked every part of the city in one gaudy, infuriating list, pitting Leslievillians against Riverdalers, North Yorkers against L’Amoreauxois. Well, yes and no. We have ranked every neighbourhood—one through 158—with the vital assistance of some professional dataheads. But the idea isn’t to incite neighbourhood warfare or publicly shame those areas that placed near the bottom.

Our city is growing so fast that it sometimes reminds me of raising a toddler. The grandparents don’t see the little gremlin for a few weeks and then remark on his wild growth spurt the next time they visit. Meanwhile, you, covered in spaghetti sauce, have barely noticed. In Toronto, if you miss out on exploring an area for long enough, it can seem almost unrecognizable the next time you visit—new parkette, brewery, bike lane, restaurant, shopping complex. That kind of change has been happening in virtually every corner of the city.

Ranking anything is a fraught endeavour in the age of outrage. If something is first, then something else is naturally last, and that’s mean. Maybe so. But our stance is that in a dynamic city like ours, even the last-place neighbourhood (in this case, Kennedy Park) is profoundly desirable. It’s the site of one of the prettiest cemeteries in Toronto, sun-dappled, quiet, picturesque and a closely guarded secret for distance runners. My daughter plays weekly basketball at one of Kennedy Park’s public schools, an architecturally fascinating building with evidence of abundant school spirit. Just around the corner, you will find some of the best food in the city. And with property prices almost reasonable, what’s stopping it from being the next Junction? That a beautiful, bountiful, diverse neighbourhood places last is more a compliment to Toronto than an insult to Kennedy Park.

A cyclist riding along Danforth, through Toronto Life's number-one ranked neighbourhood to live in now
Photo by Patrick Marcoux

We last published our neighbourhood rankings in 2018, well before the pandemic and its attendant upheavals. Since then, the city map has been redrawn to include 34 new neighbourhoods. Fresh census data dropped in 2021, giving us new insights into how we work, live and play. Add in the bevy of new transit projects, office and condo towers, cool bars, stellar restaurants, and shiny hospitals (well, one) and there is plenty to analyze.

To offset our inherent postal-code predilections and allegiances, the good people at Environics crunched the numbers for us. Then we gathered around a boardroom table like kids on Christmas morning waiting for the big reveal.

The winner, as you can read here, is Danforth. Initially, we were surprised by the news. It’s a well-loved spot, known for Taste of the Danforth, gorgeous streets, heritage homes, vibrant commerce and excellent schools. What’s changed most is that, while affordability has worsened in general, Danforth has remained more attainable—this is a relative term, mind you—than many other top-ranking neighbourhoods. And in a city where getting around is both important and nearly impossible, Danforth, with its five subway stops, makes the experience far easier than its competitors.

For the rankings, we weighted the criteria based on what we felt matters most to Torontonians right now. That’s a difficult undertaking to get right, so we invite you to check out our interactive neighbourhood-ranking tool, where you can tweak the weighting to your preferences. Kennedy Park may be your number one. If so, you’d hear no argument from us.

Malcolm Johnston is the editor of Toronto Life. He can be reached via email at editor@torontolife.com.