Earlier this week, we got underway with the first of what will be an ongoing series of short community profiles about some of the smaller real estate markets which surround the Kitchener-Waterloo area. As prices have increased in larger urban areas over the past several years, we’ve seen an influx of buyers turning to these communities as more budget-friendly (and peaceful) solutions to their need for housing. We started our look into these areas this past Wednesday with the charming town of Paris, Ontario – a little less than 40 minutes south-east of Waterloo. Today, I’d like to focus on a spot which still lies within Waterloo Region, but on our western-most boundary – the town of New Hamburg.

New Hamburg has been a population centre since the early days of Waterloo Region, first settled in 1832 by immigrants of German heritage, Mennonites and other religious denominations. Like so many other towns in our area, New Hamburg’s lifeforce was a waterway – in this case, the Nith River. Milling was the earliest form of industry here, with wood and grist mills forming the centre of economic activity in the new settlement. By the mid-1800s, New Hamburg had grown to a population of more than 1,000 residents and now boasted multiple industries, retailers, pubs, hotels, churches, a post office, and its own station on the Grand Trunk Railway.

Given its proximity to the larger cities of Kitchener and Waterloo (about 20 kilometres distant in the early days, but now down to 10 or so as borders have expanded), New Hamburg’s demographic and economic growth has always been tightly connected to that of its larger neighbours. And, as of the 2016 Canadian national census, the town’s population is now above 13,500 – a number which by 2021 I would expect to stand closer to the 15,000-mark, considering the pace of new development I’ve observed underway there.

It doesn’t take a genius to quickly see why New Hamburg has been booming. Only a 15-minute drive via Highway 7/8 from the outskirts of Kitchener, it’s an incredibly convenient alternative for families who have been priced out of ownership in core areas of the big cities. And as the town grows, there’s no longer much of a need for people to sacrifice access to amenities – shops, services and suppliers are bountiful, and any kind of essential item or service can be sourced right inside town and without any need to make the drive into Kitchener-Waterloo.

While price increases in New Hamburg have kept pace with those seen generally across Southwestern Ontario, it remains true that a buyer can expect to receive more house on more land for their money here than in Kitchener-Waterloo. And, as more and more of our workforce finds themselves able to work remotely (or only commute a couple days a week), the value evident in moving to a smaller town like New Hamburg makes the decision easier for increasing numbers of professionals and young families.

As elsewhere, developers and builders have been scrambling to keep up with demand for new housing – particularly in the southern reaches of the community. Where New Hamburg was once concentrated in a small isthmus of the Nith River, it now claims broad stretches of former farmland as streets and entire subdivisions of new home after new home, with even more development in the works.

Article originally written by Lee Quaile, February 26, 2021