Housing report

Hamilton could ‘dig in’ without family-friendly housing: report

By Nathan Sager

Published on June 25, 2021 at 03:41

Hamilton’s housing construction policies need to be more family-friendly, especially as there is a climate crisis.

Thursday, the Smart Prosperity Institute published a research paper which examines homebuilding and population trends in Hamilton from 2015 to 2020. The authors claim that Hamilton built fewer single-family dwellings in the second half of the 2010s than in the first.

This cost the city the chance to welcome new residents.
According to Oxford Economics, it has also contributed to Hamilton having the third most expensive housing market relative to income in North America. Only Toronto and Vancouver rank higher.

“I don’t think this will come as a surprise to anyone in Hamilton, but we’re seeing a lot of young families leaving,” says Dr. Mike P. Moffatt, SmartProsperity Senior Director. “In three years alone, more than 10,000 people have moved to the area. It was mostly parents with their young children. And it’s not hard to see why. It’s simply a lack of housing options and higher prices in the Hamilton-Burlington area compared to St. Catharines prices in Tillsonburg.

Ontario’s population growth from 2015 to 2020 was 80% higher than from 2010-2015. Over the past five-year period, however, there has been a 23% decrease in the number of single, semi-detached and row houses built in the census metropolitan area of ​​Hamilton. A 66% increase in new apartments was also lower than this 80% figure.

“Since 2017, the trends we associate with Toronto are starting to happen in Hamilton, adds Moffatt, who teaches at the Richard Ivey School of Business at Western University in London, Ontario. “We have had all this strong population growth throughout the region. We’ve changed our immigration targets, we’ve had a good Ontario economy, and we’ve had an influx of non-permanent residents to attend colleges and universities — all of that, I think, is a fantastic thing.

“But cities like Hamilton and Burlington haven’t changed their pattern of home building and, in fact, have decided to build fewer homes instead.”

The knock-on effects of the housing crisis can be seen as twofold. The fact that a significant portion of a city’s workforce lives outside of it and uses personal vehicles to commute to work increases greenhouse gas emissions.

It also creates a gap between the city’s tax revenue and the cost of providing services.

“As someone who would like to avoid sprawl, I don’t think it’s great for Ontario to have this exodus out of Hamilton, where people often still work in Hamilton and then move back to another city,” said Moffatt. “So by finding a way to build more family-friendly, climate-friendly and affordable housing, you’ll achieve better economic and environmental outcomes.”

Hamilton is firmly rooted in the knowledge economy, largely due to the ability of McMaster University and Mohawk College to attract post-secondary students. But if people don’t see how to live and raise a family in the city, they will seek housing elsewhere.

“You worry about the ability to attract and retain talent,” Moffatt says. “You have a lot of employers in Hamilton in the aerospace, automotive and white collar sectors trying to attract talent. If people feel like they’re in a situation where it’s, “I have to choose between raising a family or taking this job, then they’ll go work somewhere else.”

The city also has a well-publicized infrastructure deficit. Over the decades, the population of the Lower Town has declined as suburbs and suburbs have grown. Maintaining this area could become even more daunting, Moffatt says.

“At the municipal level, what would worry me is that Hamilton finds itself in a situation where it has to provide a lot of services – public transport, police, etc. — without the tax base,” he says. “So you have these kinds of out-of-towners who use these services, but they don’t pay municipal property taxes.

“We have seen in the United States, the hollowing out of urban centers and the costs that come with that… The municipal government has to think about this and realize that if people are coming to Hamilton, but not living in Hamilton, then there is there is going to be a mismatch between the cost of running the city and your tax base.

The work of Smart Prosperity, which was funded with assistance from the West End Home Builders’ Association, does not address solutions or revisions to homebuilding problems in Hamilton.

“You need a variety of family-friendly forms,” ​​says Moffatt.

The 28-page document is titled: “Ontarians on the Move: Local Intelligence Report — Hamilton.” Other Moffatt authors are Mohsina Atiq, Una Jefferson, Harshini Ramesh. Smart Prosperity is based at the University of Ottawa.

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