Hamilton is facing an affordable housing crisis. This crisis did not happen overnight and it will not be solved overnight. But, a solution is within our grasp. It will take cooperation, determination and strategic investments.
Any beginning must begin with this first guiding principle: affordable housing is an investment, not an expense.
Affordable housing is key to supporting the city’s official vision to be the best place to raise a child and age successfully and is fundamental to sustainability, positive educational outcomes, health and prosperity.
A second guiding principle is that the market has not and will not self-correct to address this crisis. Intervention on the part of all levels of government (federal, provincial and municipal) is necessary.
Thirdly, let us not view affordable housing as a burden but as an opportunity. Every neighbourhood across the city must take advantage of the opportunity to include affordable housing in its development plans.
Fourthly, the segregation of our city by income, and therefore housing type, will not make for a prosperous, sustainable or healthy city. Inclusivity based on mixed-income must guide our city building actions.
Finally, any affordable housing strategy must have full awareness of the circumstances and needs of residents. To this end, it is my fundamental belief that we must apply a gender lens to our housing strategy. A gendered lens is a disciplined, informed practice of looking at something – – in this case affordable housing – rooted in the fundamental acceptance that urbanization is a deeply gendered process. Women and men experience urban environments differently. For example, more women than men lead single-parent families, more women suffer from domestic violence, and more women, as the dominant caregiver, are at risk of losing their children if their housing status fails. A failure to accept this basic premise means that housing policy and housing projects will never be fully informed, and, therefore, will never fully hit its mark.
As Ward 1 City Councillor, I will call for a housing strategy rooted in several pillars:
1. Look for Housing Partners
Identify and work with stakeholders, including our senior orders of government, non-profit organizations and cooperatives, the private sector and individuals, to find opportunities and create an environment that identifies affordable housing as a priority in Hamilton and the responsibility of many.
2. Get the Land and Approvals Ready, Minimize the Risk
Reduce costs and wait times by having the necessary development approvals in place for shovel-ready lands across the city for affordable housing projects. This could act as an incentive to private sector investment in affordable housing.
3. Use City Assets for “Housing First”
Support a “housing first” policy when it comes to identifying and assessing the use of city-owned surplus lands.