Feeling the burn of rising real estate prices

By Thomas Allen

In 2011 the average price of a house in Hamilton was $315,769.

Now, as of early this year, it’s $535,520, up 25% from 2016.

How did it get like this and how do we plan ahead?

There are many reasons for this crazy, overheated market: Toronto buyers priced out of their city, investors, speculation, bullish buying, low interest rates, demand outweighing supply, amongst others. Hamilton, with the help of a reviving downtown, has finally made it on the map for Torontonians looking to find “affordable” housing outside of their core. As things continue to look up for Hamilton (like LRT and all day GO train service on James Street North) we can only expect prices to rise. But where does that leave our emerging arts scene and culture, our most vulnerable, and our huge injection of young professionals staying in the city? What does the future hold?

How can first time buyers break into the market without having to move to a different city? Like the rising prices in Toronto pushing locals out, the rising prices of Hamilton are pushing people out to Brantford, Grimsby, and St. Catharines. Many millennials are feeling the burn. They are some of the city’s brightest and most vocal advocates of urbanism who saw Hamilton’s potential and decided to stay and make a life here; yet they can’t unless they rent.

So what do we do? How do we correct this? How do we manage? All these questions are hard to answer. When it comes to this crazy housing market, there are certainly more questions than answers. From a municipal level, there is much to look at when it comes to policies and planning ahead.

The Places To Grow Act, a strategic plan for growth that includes stakeholders at all levels, is a good start. Curbing sprawl through more density and intensification can help build a better base for people looking to afford property within city limits, but we need to plan for it.

Finally, after years of studies, the city is looking at the possibility of laneway housing. This would be a huge boost and add to the supply of houses in the city. Something we are clearly lacking.

As for condominiums, we need to continue to build up. Although there are many cranes gracing our skies, there still aren’t enough. We need to find ways to create more infill in areas of our core blighted with parking lots. We need to implement bylaws, like inclusionary zoning to provide housing for those who need assistance. We also need to look at how to build livable towers for young families who are trying to climb upwards in social mobility. We need more common spaces, green spaces, and condos with layouts suitable to raise children.

Ironically, we need to learn from Toronto when it comes to density. There are many examples, like City Place, where they’ve managed to create a city within a city, with mixed-incomes and all the necessary amenities. A place where it’s affordable enough to buy a condo and still raise a family, because we have to face the facts that we all aren’t going to be able to fulfill our dream of the white picket fence. Those days are now numbered and we face a new reality.

Affordable housing continues to be one of the hottest topics in this city and we’re lucky to have Indwell and Invizij creating thoughtful and stylish developments around the city. And it’s something we still need more of. Something we need to nurture. We also need to better protect the rights of tenants who are feeling the squeeze of property managers wanting to evict to retrofit their apartments for more profit. These are real issues that cannot be ignored.

Hope has been something ingrained in this city, along with passion and hard work. We need to raise hope by raising our city to another level. To encourage and inspire those who are discouraged by our current economic climate of dizzying growth to stay and see this through. There is light at the end of the tunnel for those who want to plant roots in Hamilton.  We need to nurture our creative and artistic talents, our young entrepreneurs, those in need, and our growing commercial sector through encouraging acts of urbanism. Defining acts, which will contribute to our future growth and create a dynamic city available to all. Inclusivity is an important facet that needs to be addressed and planned for.