Culture, History, and Business
The early history of Gatineau centers around what was formerly the city of Hull, which was founded in 1800 as an agricultural community for Loyalists who were fleeing the American Revolutionary War. The timber trade led to growth in the area, which in turn led to the establishment of a number of paper mills, some of which continue to operate. While Hull was originally an anglophone community, it gradually attracted French Canadians, who accounted for 90% of the population by 1920. During the 20th century, Hull gained a reputation for its nightlife, especially in contrast to Ottawa, which was seen as a staid government town. This was especially so during the 1920’s when Ontario enacted prohibition, which led to Ottawa residents coming to Hull for its bars and clubs. Even after prohibition ended, the city’s reputation for nightlife remained, in part thanks to the lower drinking age in Quebec (at 18) compared to Ontario (at 19).
In 2002, the five municipalities that lay along the northern bank of the Ottawa River were forced to merge by the provincial Quebec government, which formed the city of Gatineau. Today, while Gatineau still retains some of its working-class culture, it has become far more integrated into the Ottawa economy. As a result, the federal government is the main driver of the economy now, with many governmental departments and agencies headquartered in the city.
Gatineau’s real estate market is undergoing a period of substantial growth. Home sales have risen faster than almost anywhere else in Quebec and the average price is going up. Despite this, Gatineau property still remains highly affordable, costing only a fraction of the price one would pay just across the river in Ottawa. This affordability—combined with the region’s reliable, government-focused economy—has led to an influx of buyers.
Furthermore, as part of the National Capital Region, Gatineau attracts many tourists every year. It is home to one of Canada’s premier museums, the Canadian Museum of History, as well as to Gatineau Park, a vast nature area that includes the whimsical former estate of Canada’s longest serving and highly eccentric Prime Minister. For investors considering short-term rental properties catering to tourists, Gatineau—especially the area around the former city of Hull—holds a lot of potential.