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

Hamilton’s social housing providers will need more government financial support as they grapple with COVID costs and rent arrears resulting from tenants struggling with the financial burdens of the pandemic.

Rent arrears at the City of Hamilton’s social housing provider have more than doubled in the past year.

Ward 5 City Councillor Chad Collins, who sits on the CityHousing Hamilton Board, told his fellow Councillors during a budget meeting today.

“Our arrears have gone up from an average 14 or 15% to around 34% now”, Collins stated.

“There will be a cost to [CHH] as it relates to payback time as the Landlord and Tenant Board is giving people 18 months to two years” to pay their arrears.

Collins says CHH and other social housing providers will need more funding from other levels of government to meet the costs of rent arrears, COVID, and an ongoing rent freeze for 2021 implemented by the province.

CHH’s financial updates indicate the rent freeze will decrease revenues by $1.1-million.

Hamilton General Manager of Finance and Corporate Services believes the City may be able to use Provincial and Federal COVID funds to cover the cost of the rent freeze.

“Whether or not the city could defend it,” Zegarac stated. “The news release from the provincial government was tied to COVID-19, which would help us as relates to defending the position that [the cost of the rent freeze] is tied to the pandemic.”

City staff will update Council on social housing COVID cost impacts at a future meeting.