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Getting a handle on the meaning of housing affordability in Hamilton

The question of exactly what is the definition of affordable housing may finally get some answers. The discussion of inclusionary zoning as a means of forcing developers to provide more affordable homes has been discussed at several meetings of Hamilton Council, but nobody seemed to have a handle on what affordable meant.

A staff report to the Planning committee has attempted to put some numbers to the definition. Two calculations of affordable housing were presented to the committee and in both cases the definition of “affordable” was well below what are the going rates currently in Hamilton.

The city hired a consultant to define the question of housing affordability based on local conditions. At the same time the province has also prepared an affordability definition.

The staff report was presented as a first step in a provincially-mandated process that has to be completed before a municipality will get permission to impose Inclusionary Zoning. Inclusionary zoning can only be applied in what are called Major Transit Station Areas, which in the case of Hamilton would be the entire length of the proposed LRT as well as the GO stations.

The report listed some questions that need answers including:

  • What proportion of housing developments should be required to be affordable?
  • Should affordability focus on medium-income or low-income residents?
  • How long should the affordability requirement be in place?
  • What size of units should be required?

Next steps will involve consultation with the development community to obtain feedback. The public will also be invited to respond and provide input.

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