Mike Collins-Williams

The Hamilton area is in a housing crisis. We are already pricing out families and the next generation of talented young people as they “drive until they qualify” for attainable housing in our neighbouring communities. Failing to address the shortage of housing is straining our community’s social and economic viability and worsening our quality of life. Workers commute longer distances as they leave for more affordable communities further and further away. The lack of housing options for our workers begs the question as to: “who will swing the hammer?”

Hamilton’s population is aging. We must attract and retain talented and experienced workers to replace those retiring. We need health care workers to care for our elderly. We need education workers to ensure Hamilton is a viable option for families with children. We need skilled trades to build new housing, schools and critical infrastructure. Hamilton’s growing manufacturing and tech sectors need to be able to attract young workers and retain them, especially when they consider having children. Hamilton’s future prosperity is linked to our ability to compete with other cities for talent. If we want people to choose to make Hamilton home, we need to build more attainable, family-friendly housing options. Otherwise, our city will continue to lose talent and opportunities to our neighbouring regions.

Over the past few years, we have witnessed the impact of a shortage of housing options, with more families getting priced out and leaving for more affordable communities. It is like a cruel game of musical chairs where the lack of homes on the market means far more losers than winners. Hamilton is struggling to attract young talent and we are struggling to retain families. Housing availability is the primary driver of migration in the Hamilton area and Hamiltonians are getting displaced as young people are looking for options in places like London, Calgary and Halifax. Some are even giving up on Canada altogether.

The population pressures leading to this point are not likely to diminish. The Greater Golden Horseshoe will continue to grow, especially with the increased immigration targets. With our strong and diversified local economy, Hamilton has the potential to entice talented newcomers to live and work in the city. However, if the supply of housing continues to not keep up, more young families will embark on the ‘drive until you qualify’ route to find cheaper housing outside of our city.

We are in a global competition for talent. Experts such as Dr. Mike Moffatt at the Smart Prosperity Institute have clearly stated that doubling home building over the next decade is the solution to the housing crisis. Increasing housing supply will help to ensure that Hamilton is an attractive and viable place to work and live as we are currently lagging behind other cities. The provincial government has given Hamilton a target of 47,000 units over the next decade. This target aligns almost perfectly with the projected housing needs based on demographic research by the Smart Prosperity Institute. You can’t regulate your way out of a housing supply shortage. You can’t tax your way out of a housing supply shortage. You can only build your way out of a housing supply shortage.

The future is not set. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves. Hamilton’s municipal leaders working in co-operation with the housing industry should be responsible for making data-driven decisions about future housing needs. We have the opportunity to ensure our community is open to all. By doubling housing production and by building more family-friendly housing, Hamilton can shape the region’s long-term labour supply and bolster it’s local economic viability. By ensuring our housing needs are met, the city can answer the question: who will swing the hammer?