A glance at the speakers list for Monday’s General Issues Committee suggests sparks will fly over the city’s future growth lands. The list of speakers includes well known local environmental activists and on the other side, representatives of the development community, At issue is how can Hamilton meet population and job growth targets set by the province while at the same time trying to accommodate much of it within the current urban boundary.
As one consultant politely put it, what the government considers minimum intensification is actually at the upper limit of what the home buying public will put up with. As the consultant suggested, “ So although characterized as “minimum”, the Growth Plan target is at the high end of the range of demand from a market perspective. For the City of Hamilton it represents a rapid and the range of demand significant increase in the amount of growth to occur through intensification and a substantial change to the profile of future housing demand in favour of apartments.” In other words unless the government is prepared to move people into apartments at the point of a gun, it is going to be a tough task to meet provincial density objectives.
The provincial government has determined that Hamilton’s population over the next 30 years will grow to 820,000 and result in the need to add 122,000 jobs to support that growth
While the consulting document references COVID, it does not discuss the additional demand pressure for single family homes that the pandemic has created. For one thing, COVID has necessitated a surge in working from home, which in turn creates demand for more living space. The report assumers there will be a return to office based work after the pandemic has ended but suggests, because of cost factors, there will eventually be a trickle down demand that will result in more office space being needed in Hamilton, which has had surplus office space since the 1980’s.
Under current land use trends, Hamilton will achieve 40 percent intensification which does not meet the Province’s minimum intensification target of 50 percent. But even meeting that target will require 2,200 more hectares of land. The consultant says even meeting that target may be a challenge, saying that even with a concerted push to get people into apartments the demand for single and semi-detached houses will still be greater than all other housing forms, including high rise, combined.
A look at the public consultation process that led up to the study again demonstrated the difficulty with public consultation process generally– poor participation and what participation there is tends to reflect vested interests on both sides of the subject.
The report concludes that the market is likely to demand 83,000 housing units that would take up unique land space (singles or semis), while meeting the provincial target would mean 20,000 of them somehow being encouraged or regulated into choosing a high rise apartment.