A new report from the Hamilton Community Foundation touts the city's "economic renaissance," but cautions that disparity is a "critical issue," as many people are not able to reap the benefits of all that newfound optimism.

The Vital Signs report, which was prepared by the Social Planning and Research Council, outlines a mixed bag of positive movement for the city alongside negatives like a "looming housing crisis," and insecure employment that leaves many struggling to make ends meet.

"This Vital Signs report reaffirms many reasons for the city's new sense of energy and optimism, but also that disparity remains a critical issue," foundation President & CEO Terry Cooke said in a statement. "Many Hamiltonians still struggle to secure basics such as safe, affordable housing, secure jobs and an income above the poverty line."

Here is the good and the bad from the report:

The good

  • Unemployment rates in Hamilton are better than the provincial average.
  • Hamilton's growth rate of 20-to-29 year olds is now the highest the city has seen since at least 1987. In Toronto and Waterloo, the rate is dropping.
  • Hamilton's number of people on social assistance has fallen faster than any Ontario city since the recession – but remains above the provincial average.
  • Despite a decline in industrial jobs, those that remain are still of high quality.

The bad

  • Rents have risen by over four per cent in a year, and rental vacancy rates have dropped to an "unhealthy" level of 1.8 per cent, which the foundation says foreshadows a "looming housing crisis."
  • Up to 57 percent of Hamilton's workers are in "insecure employment" with less access to benefits and pensions, the highest rate across the GTA and Hamilton.
  • Hamilton's very low vacancy rate is leading to higher rents.
  • The lowest-income renters already pay an average of 69 per cent of income to rent, leaving them at high risk of homelessness if their housing costs increase.
  • Almost 40 per cent of Hamilton workers with insecure employment find access to childcare limits their ability to work, compared to less than 10 per cent for secure workers.
  • Hamilton's youth unemployment remains more than double the average for the general population: the percentage of people 15 to 24 years old who are employed has dropped significantly in the last few decades.

"Organizations, businesses, local government and individuals have put their confidence in Hamilton, and the positive results are clear," Cooke said.  "But we can't afford to lose sight of those who are falling farther and farther behind or the renaissance may be short lived. 

"We need to call on governments at all levels – especially as we head into a federal election – to commit to affordable housing and other policies that allow all citizens to share in Hamilton's success."

You can read the full report here.