The Cost of Housing in Montreal

I just found a very confusing article on the cost of real estate in Montreal:

The latest annual Demographia study on housing affordability reveals that it would now take 5.1 years of median Montreal household income ($54,700) to pay off a median house in Montreal, ($281,700), placing Montreal’s affordability at a dismal 255 out of 325 cities surveyed. It’s a big slide from the 182nd spot two years ago, and an even bigger drop from years prior.

The annual study now describes Montreal as “one of the worst performers” since the group started analyzing the ratio of income to housing prices in hundreds of world cities in 2004.

By way of contrast, in Detroit, a household could pay off the typical house with less than one-and-a-half year’s income.

At this particular moment in time, I happen to know for an absolute fact that for $281,700 you can buy an amazing, completely new place in a prestigious, 100% safe, beautiful area in Montreal close to all kinds of public transportation. The above-quoted article is suggesting that in Detroit (which, with all due respect, should not be compared to Montreal in terms of living conditions), you can buy something comparable for under $80K. I’ve been to Detroit, and somehow, this does not ring true to me at all.

Montreal is, without a doubt, the best city in North America to live in terms of the quality of life. I’ve lived in a variety of areas in the US and I can’t think of a single city (mind you, not a tiny village in a godforsaken region where you can’t live without a car and don’t even get to see any people outside for weeks) where the cost of real estate wasn’t many times higher than in Montreal.

The cost of housing has, indeed, been climbing in Montreal. Quebec is in great shape economically, culturally, and in every other possible way. It is not surprising that a growing number of people wants to live in this great country. As a result, the value of real estate rises.

P.S. A growing number of people wants or want to live? I always get confused, and Google isn’t being helpful. Are there any grammarians of English around?

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17 comments on “The Cost of Housing in Montreal

  1. I believe the correct wording is: “A growing number of people want…” I’m not a linguist, so please forgive any errors in terminology, but it seems that the noun here is “a growing number” and, because the noun is singular, it should correspond with “want.” Even though “people” is plural, the wording focuses on a singular group. I hope that makes sense? :)

    Also, I read your blog regularly and thoroughly enjoy your commentary and interesting perspectives!

  2. ‘Want’ is the plural verb form here. ‘Wants’ is the singular form, as in ‘he wants’ but ‘they want.’ This inflection is only distinguishable in the third person in English.

  3. ^ You’re both wrong it should be ‘wants’. It sounds antiquated -but not grating to me anyway. I’m not a grammarian, but I took the ACT recently and questions about this are on there. But this rule isn’t particularly important because you hear both ways.
    But to be technically correct:

    A big group of people goes
    A flock of seagulls travels north.

    (of blankblank) is an adjective and modifies the noun which is singular, and as such uses a singular conjugation.

  4. I agree, Clarissa. The formal analysis that Liz gave is correct, but it still upsets my ear, so I suspect that there is an old form which is different. Bear in mind that, being an Appalachian, I grew up speaking centuries-old English.

  5. Are you talking about a specific house that you know is selling for less than $281K? In that case maybe there’s a particular reason why it’s selling for that price.

    For me, a house (not an apartment) for that price in one of the best cities in north america sounds too good to be true.

    • I know of a specific fantastic place selling for $260K + the government gives you 10% of the entire amount to help you buy it. We’ve had a need to look for places to buy in Montreal in the past 2 weeks and found amazing apartments (dark wood floors, renovated kitchens, super duper new bathrooms, 2 bedrooms, a verandah) for $180K in Montreal.

      It is a great city. :-)

  6. I insist that David is correct. Think about it– you’re basically saying, “More and more people… WANT…”

    I don’t think it’s helpful to compare it to units such as group or flock because you can talk about those independently without specifying their integrants. However, you’d never say, “I just saw a growing number (cross the street, etc.)!” You have to say that it’s a growing number of people. You could say “a growing number” if it referred to something that immediately preceded it, though. Still, you would treat this as a collective and would use the plural verb form for it. For example, “College graduates have traditionally sought work after graduating. Now, however, a growing number are pursuing master’s degrees.” Who is pursuing master’s degrees? Some ballooning figure? No, individuals.

    And I know it’s not an exact science, but if you compare the counts on Google, “a growing number of people wants” gets you 17,000 hits, whereas “a growing number of people want” gets you seven and a half million.

    Asking about grammar will always get your readers to come out of the woodwork and comment with vim and vigor! :)

  7. The Detroit superdome went on sale one year ago. it was listed at $55,000. Detroit is a failed city and its real estate prices are as low if not lower than Clarissa suggests. I would not recommend purchasing even at such low prices. Because many of the areas are deserts of untended properties. And that will not soon reverse itself.

  8. Consider the issue of people versus people. People want to do things, but A people (un pueblo) wants to do things. People can be plural or singular. A group on the other hand depends on the country you’re in. Brits consider a group (or a family, or whatever noun represents multiple individuals) to be plural. “The majority [of this or that] want…” In the USA, these same groups are singular – seen as one group, not a bunch of individuals. “The majority [of this or that] wants…” Actual practice is varied though, and usage often doesn’t match “proper” grammar. And of course, remember that “of people” is a preposition, not the subject of the sentence.

  9. Want/wants. H’mmm. Also not a grammarian. However, I do know want in the transitive form as used above it has two usages, in the sense of desires and lacks. Generally speaking where an ‘s’ is used with want, it’s because you wish to denote multiple desires, not multiple persons desiring. In the sentence above the plural is contained within the noun people, so adding the ‘s’ would be redundant.

  10. (The other Hattie) Usage dictates “want.” In strict grammatical terms, it would be “wants,” to agree with “number,” but in fact it is the people who want, not the number. Or the growing number. Here meaning trumps formal grammar.

  11. Hattie’s analysis is correct. Number is the subject of the sentence, and people is the object of a prepositional phrase that modifies number. By that rule, the word should be wants because number is singular. On the other hand, nearly every English speaker will use the word want. Wants just sounds wrong in this sentence. The word people feels intuitively like the subject, people rarely is used as a singular term, and people comes immediately before the verb.

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