Hamilton needs a “staggering” amount of money for affordable housing — more than $42 million per year for the next decade — or more residents will be at risk of being homeless. But the city says it can't afford to do it on its own.

The city needs to spend $42.7 million each year, including $30 million to build 3,000 more affordable rental units, to keep low-income residents in homes, said Gillian Hendry, the city’s director of housing and homelessness. 

It also needs another $2.52 million per year to hand out 2,100 new housing allowances, and $7 million to rehabilitate old units in need of about $20,000 in repairs each.

The cost of keeping people housed

Amount needed to spend each year: $42.7 million

According to city staff, this includes:

  • $30 million to build 300 affordable units
  • $2.5 million to fund 210 housing allowances
  • $7 million to rehabilitate 350 units
  • $3.2 million to improve the quality of social housing

Source: Hamilton's Housing and Homelessness Action Plan

Hendry presented the numbers as part of a sweeping 10-year homelessness action plan designed to prevent more residents from falling into homelessness or precarious housing. She presented the plan at an emergency and community services committee meeting Monday.

Not all the money needs to come from city coffers, she said. She recommends aggressively lobbying the provincial and federal governments to help with the city’s housing needs.

Still, the numbers are “staggering,” said Coun. Tom Jackson, who represents Ward 6 on the Mountain. And they mean Hamilton “desperately” needs help from other levels of government.

“We can’t afford the magnitude of that pressure on our municipal budget,” he said.

The city developed the action plan with numerous community members and groups. The report lists some of the pressures.

  • About 5,600 households are on the waiting list for affordable housing.
  • One in five renters — about 12,000 people — spend more than half of their income on rent.
  • About 30,000 Hamiltonians are at risk of homelessness.
  • In one year, 5,653 men, women and children sleep in the city’s emergency shelters.

Pending council approval Wednesday, the city will forward the plan to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing this month. Hendry will come back to the committee in the fall with an interim plan to dip into reserves to fund some of the immediate housing pressures.

If there’s no money invested into affordable housing in Hamilton, Hendry said, more people will be forced into emergency shelters and homelessness. 

Economic impact

Less affordable housing will also make Hamilton unattractive to companies who want to set up shop here because the city will lack affordable housing for their employees, she said.

Currently, the city provides the lion’s share of the $96 million invested in Hamilton housing initiatives each year. Local taxpayers provide 52 per cent of that money, while the federal government accounts for 27 per cent and the province 21 per cent.

Coun. Scott Duvall of Ward 7 agreed that the numbers are staggering. But there’s a national outcry now, he said, and that could force Ottawa to listen.

City taxpayers can't do it on their own, he said. Increasing property taxes to fund the $42.7 million would force more people into homelessness.

“We need financial help,” he said.

“We’re forcing people onto the street and that’s not the answer.”