A portion of the boarded up and vacant Jamesville Housing complex in Hamilton's North End. Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr and Hamilton City Council emptied the housing to sell the land for private redevelopment with smaller social housing units to replace the current social housing homes Credit: Joey Coleman / The Public Record

The City of Hamilton’s social and affordable housing agency, CityHousing Hamilton (CHH), is projecting that it may need up to $4.6 million in financial support from Council due to increase costs and lost revenues due to the provincial governments rent freeze.

CHH head Tom Hunter told the CHH Board of Directors this week that increased security, cleaning, and staffing costs due to the COVID pandemic are expected to reach $3.5-million by the end of 2020, and some of the costs will continue into 2021.

Hamilton City Council instructed all city boards and agencies to freeze their budgets for 2020. It is not clear if the City can claim CHH’s costs to federal and provincial funding for COVID costs and response.

The provincial Progressive Conservative government announced a province-wide rent freeze for 2021 as part of its COVID economic relief package.

Hunter says this will decrease CHH’s revenues by $1.1 million in 2021 and will be an ongoing revenue loss in future years. The rent freeze for 2021 will result in decreased revenue in 2022 and beyond as yearly increases are compounded year-over-year.

“I don’t think anyone is critical of the province for trying to assist people during the pandemic as relates to freezing rents”, stated Ward 5 City Councillor Chad Collins.

“Certainly, it has an impact on social housing providers, especially when it is applied to the affordable component beyond just the market rent piece”.

Hunter says CHH will continue to face inflationary costs for compensation, benefits, supplies, and other costs.

City Councillors on the CHH Board (Ward 1 Maureen Wilson, Ward 2 Jason Farr, Ward 3 Nrinder Nann, and Ward 5 Chad Collins) state they will ask the provincial government to fund the CHH deficit resulting from the rent freeze.

Some of the provincial and federal COVID funding to the City of Hamilton can be applied to the CHH budget in 2020. The City of Hamilton is expecting a small budget surplus for 2020 due to funding from other levels of government.

Last Friday, October 30, Council instructed all City agencies, boards, and commissions to freeze their 2021 budget at 2020 funding levels. The City is projecting a 4.0% property tax increase for Hamiltonians in a current best-case scenario that the provincial and federal government continue to provide significant one-time funding grants to municipalities as part of COVID financial supports.

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First published: November 3, 2020
Last edited: November 3, 2020
Author: Joey Coleman
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