Hamilton Spectator: McMaster 'Art of Change' students study solutions to Hamilton's housing crisis

Posted May 25, 2022

Inclusionary zoning, rent controls and a vacant home tax program were among the tools identified by McMaster students earlier this year in a quest for solutions to Hamilton’s housing crisis.

Amandeep Saini, an employee at the office of community engagement at McMaster and a student in the “art of change” course at McMaster last winter, said the effort also included the Just Recovery Hamilton Coalition. The study included input from the Hamilton Community Benefits Network, United Way Halton and Hamilton, YWCA Hamilton, Environment Hamilton, and ACORN Hamilton.

The art of change course aims to connect students with community organizations to work collaboratively on a local issue.

The winter 2022 course focused on Hamilton’s housing crisis and included topics like inclusionary zoning, transit-oriented development, intensification within urban boundaries, affordable housing, housing supply and displacement.

A report compiled by Saini along with students Ali Siddiqui, Raagavi Ramenthiran, Summer Akhtar and Hartley Schuyler, identifies several short- and long-term goals.

“We discussed with community members and leaders about how to turn this crisis into actionable steps,” said Saini.

Inclusionary zoning is a tool under provincial legislation that municipalities can use to oblige private developers to include affordable units near major transit stations. Advocates have requested the tool be applied to the 17 LRT stops along Hamilton’s future McMaster-to-Eastgate line and existing GO stations.

Over the coming months, Saini added, Hamilton councillors could develop administrative structures to support a vacant home tax program, to promote more housing availability. In addition, all levels of government are being asked to issue detailed reports on addressing the affordable housing crisis.

“Policies need to be set in place to protect LRT corridor residents from evictions and gentrification,” the students’ report notes.

Students also identified a need for rent controls, and measures to discourage “renovictions,” when long-term tenants are pressured to move out during renovation projects, allowing property owners to re-rent their units at higher rates.

According to the rentals.ca fourth annual predictions report, released May 16, Hamilton’s vacancy rate continues to shrink, despite the largest supply increase in over 30 years. Rental apartments in the Hamilton area increased by nearly 900 units in 2021, but the increase in supply was insufficient to keep pace with rental demand.

The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Hamilton in April was $1,527, according to rentals.ca.

In a presentation at Hamilton City Hall on May 17, Karl Andrus of the Hamilton Community Benefits Network said city officials must act fast to promote inclusionary zoning along Hamilton’s LRT route.

“Every moment you delay, more land is being procured along the corridor by developers, more permits are issued, and less of the booming development going on around us could be subjected to this tool,” he said.

***

Article by Mike Pearson for the Hamilton Spectator

 

Sign up for ACORN's newsletter