City plan to ease affordable housing crisis: offer up its own land

The list of Hamiltonians who need affordable housing is only getting longer, says the president of CityHousing Hamilton. Now the city will identify some of its own land to make available to entice developers.

List of people waiting for social housing has doubled in last 15 years

The city is starting a new subcommittee devoted to find available land around Hamilton that it could sell to developers willing to build affordable housing. (Fred Prouser/Reuters)

Parking lots. Former school properties. Municipal service centres. Unused parcels of land.

All of them are potential places to build affordable housing for some of the 5,700 Hamiltonians on the waiting list, says Coun. Chad Collins. And now the city is a step closer to doing so.

City council decided Wednesday to form a subcommittee with representatives from across the city.

There's no sign that list is going to get any shorter.- Chad Collins, Ward 5 councillor

That group's sole purpose, Collins said, is for councillors to put their heads together and identify properties around the city that can hold affordable housing.

When that's done, the Ward 5 councillor said, the city would offer up the land to developers who pledge to build affordable housing there.

There's potential out there, Collins said. And the city has to find it. The waiting list of Hamiltonians who need social housing has doubled since 2000, which means there are more and more people who can't find decent options.

The city hopes to cut its social housing waiting list in half by 2023, says Chad Collins. But at the current pace, it will only get worse. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

"There's no sign that list is going to get any shorter," said Collins, who is also president of CityHousing Hamilton. "There's no sign, in the absence of provincial and federal funds, that the city's going to put a dent in it."

The city's goal is to cut the waiting list in half by 2023. And the way it's going, Collins said, "we're trending in the wrong direction."

With that in mind, "it's important for us to provide as many carrots as possible to the development industry, and for the not-for-profit industry, to build new affordable housing units in all areas of the city."

Collins says he envisions the city offering the land to private developers and not-for-profit agencies for free if it means they will build affordable housing and boost the city's supply.

But Sam Merulla, Ward 4 councillor, isn't convinced all land should be offered for free. He says he envisions the land — which could include potential provincial, federal or school board land — being sold or offered for free depending on the agreement.

This move is just the latest idea about how to fix the city's chronic affordable housing shortage, which experts say is only getting worse with Hamilton's red-hot real estate market.

This week, a city-commissioned report recommended that CityHousing Hamilton sell its north-end townhouses and an apartment building to build more affordable housing in the Barton and Tiffany area.

If the city does that, the report says, it could nearly double the number of units from 230 to 400.

Collins has already offered an affordable housing solution on city-owned land in his own ward. The city is looking at including affordable seniors housing as part of an expansion to the Riverdale Recreation Centre. 


  • A previous version of this story said the city would sell the land developers. Collins's motion actually said it would make land available to developers.
    Feb 11, 2016 5:44 PM ET


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