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Opinion: Renting in Hamilton is almost unattainable for young people

Being a young adult is hard and expensive, and renting in Hamilton is also hard and expensive. Now imagine doing those two things at the same time. It feels impossible. 

In November 2023 the average price of a one-bedroom apartment is $1,868.

For my one-bedroom apartment in downtown Hamilton, my partner and I pay $1,753.50 a month in rent. That comes out to $21,042 a year for just rent. That is almost the same amount of money I made in an entire year when I was working full-time at McDonald’s. 

But 12 years ago, Hamilton was one of the cheapest Ontario cities to rent in. The average renter paid $770 a month according to a Statistics Canada National Housing Survey from 2011.

What happened? Now the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment is $1,868 per month according to rentals.ca.

A Vital Signs report published in October by Hamilton Community Foundation reports rents in Hamilton have increased 55 per cent in the last decade. Rents keep going up and the supply for rentals is getting tighter.

Imagine being a young adult and trying to rent in this market. Living with roommates or moving in with a partner would be the only way most young adults could afford a one-bedroom apartment in Hamilton. That’s not factoring in utilities, transportation, bills, groceries and other costs associated with renting and living on your own. 

The city of Hamilton should step in and buy unused properties and convert them into affordable housing. As it stands, the current wait time for city housing in Hamilton is almost eight years for a one-bedroom or a single-family home. 

City housing is affordable because the rent is subsidized based on 30 per cent of the tenant’s monthly income. With a wait time of almost eight years, it feels out of reach for most people, certainly for students.

We need more apartment buildings, not condos. At the moment there are 33 condo buildings being built, sold, or planned in Hamilton. Condos are not affordable, let alone attainable for any young adult. Condos exist for the wealthy few who can afford them. 

Young adults can’t afford to buy a home or buy a condo, which is why the city needs more affordable rental apartments.

Two years ago, the city discussed expanding the city’s boundaries but that won’t fix the issue. Building outwards is not the solution, building upwards is. 

R1 Single-family home zoning in Hamilton. Hamilton also has R4 zoning which is small lot single-family homes.

But building upwards is almost impossible when a majority of Hamilton is zoned for single-family housing.

Having the city step in and buy unused properties and turn them into affordable housing would fix some of the issues. Fixing the zoning requirements to allow developers to build more apartment buildings would also help.

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