New housing roadmap outlines plan to build 350 affordable rental units a year in Hamilton

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Published April 20, 2023 at 12:40 pm

Anthony Urciuoli/hamilton.insauga.com photo

A new roadmap aims to address Hamilton’s growing housing crisis.

Earlier this month, Hamilton declared a state of emergency over homelessness, opioid addiction and mental health issues in the city.

And this week, the city’s General Issues Committee approved the Housing Sustainability and Investment Roadmap, billed as a new way to tackle the housing crisis.

Housing has become less affordable and less attainable in the last few decades, said Janette Smith, Hamilton’s city manager.

“The number of unhoused in our city has increased substantially,” said Smith. “Since 2015 Hamilton has had the fastest increasing home prices in Canada.”

In 2022, 32 per cent of Hamilton residents were renters but only 10 per cent of housing starts targeted the rental market, she added.

Work on the roadmap started back in August last year and included collaboration with city departments and community stakeholders. The final plan has both short-term and long-term goals.

During the collaboration “there was a sense that we already know what needs to be done but we need to do it in a different way,” said Angela Burden general manager of the Healthy and Safe Communities Department.

Burden said they need to take a holistic and “city-wide approach to solving the housing crisis.”

The city plans to establish an Affordable Housing Secretariat Division to lead work on the roadmap and to work across departments and divisions to develop and recommend an annual program of work. There would be annual progress reports.

The Affordable Housing Secretariat Division will consist of three people, two of the roles will be filled by city employees who will be moved to the positions. And the third position will be a community member funded by the Hamilton Community Foundation, said Burden.

Another big goal for the initiative is to build “350 moderately affordable market rental units per year.”

This goal is an approach used in other cities and makes the city ready for funding opportunities, said McMaster University department chair and urban geographer James Dunn.

“It’s actually a heightened state of readiness to be able to take advantage of the programs from other levels of government,” said Dunn.

At the same, the city hopes to acquire existing “at-risk” affordable housing while maintaining and retaining current city affordable housing.

Hamilton Mayor Andrea Horwath said she was impressed by the plan and the extensive discussion from councillors on the issue.

“It’s going to take all of us to keep up this engagement,” she said.

Deputy Mayor and Ward 9 Councillor Brad Clark indicated upper-level governments haven’t covered enough for housing initiatives in the past.

Clark wondered where the city would get the funds for many of the initiatives in the roadmap including the 350 units per year.

“There’s no way property taxpayers can pay for that,” Clark said, later adding: “How are we going to fund it?”

Burden acknowledged earlier in the meeting that the city would need funding help from the provincial and federal governments.

“We can not do this alone,” Burden said.

The roadmap was unanimously supported at the General Issues Committee meeting and will need final approval at council on April 26.

See the complete Housing Sustainability and Investment Roadmap online here.

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