Hamilton’s affordable-housing crisis: It’s daunting
It’s not getting any better. The list of people waiting for social housing in Hamilton now sits at 6,860. Two years ago at was 5,700. We’re going in the wrong direction.
It’s not that the City of Hamilton is doing anything wrong. Quite the contrary. It has invested millions in repairing units and getting them back on the market. Even though 109 units are unavailable now due to disrepair, that’s an improvement from 2016 when that number was more like 200.
So don’t blame City Hall. The reality is that problem dwarfs the city’s finances and resources.
Let’s remember the history of this crisis. It began 20 years ago with Mike Harris downloading social housing to municipalities. He did nothing to help municipalities pay for the added responsibility.
For years, Ottawa wasn’t been much better. Cities were around the table trying to deal with social housing, the province and feds were absent. Enter the Trudeau government, which pledged to do better, and has kept that promise. Late last year, Ottawa promised $40 billion over 10 years for its National Housing Strategy. That included building 100,000 new homes and repairing 260,000 existing ones. It also included a new portable housing benefit for low-income households spending more than 30 per cent of after-tax income on housing. It’s a start, but it’s not enough.
The program rolls out over 10 years, and that’s too long. Too much of the money is back-end loaded, while need is critical and immediate. And Ottawa foresaw provinces kicking in matching dollars to help. Can anyone picture the Ford government doing that?
This isn’t rocket science. Decent housing saves lives, reduces health costs and improves the lives of vulnerable citizens. Ontario and Hamilton can’t count on Doug Ford, so Ottawa needs to do more. Now, not later.