If Hamilton hosts Commonwealth Games, Indwell welcomes opportunity to bring affordable housing solutions to the city

There has been recent intense discussion at City Council and online around a proposal to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games in Hamilton. Indwell is party to this debate, as we have agreed to explore how the Games could catalyze a permanent affordable housing legacy. Our Board’s accepting the Bid committee’s invitation has been questioned or criticized by some and applauded by others, but nobody has been indifferent to our engagement.

Everyone knows Hamilton has a growing housing crisis. While our recent economic revitalization has many positives, over 6,000 households are still on waiting lists for an affordable apartment. The pandemic has further revealed critical cracks in our housing system that we need to fix as quickly as possible.

Indwell’s mission is to create affordable housing communities for people seeking health, wellness, and belonging. Our vision is Hope and Homes for All. We know how to develop really good affordable housing that people love to live in. So we accepted the bid committee’s invitation to create an affordable housing legacy by asking ourselves, “How can we help our community see if this is possible?”.

Our City’s 10-year Housing and Homelessness Action Plan calls for building 300 new affordable apartments/year, but we are unfortunately hitting far below that goal. Our city needs new strategies to mobilize solutions – particularly federal and provincial investments, because the status quo is not working. Indwell is engaged with multiple strategies and allies to create and deliver new affordable housing.

A growing collective of housing providers launched Hamilton is Home earlier this year. While COVID-19 has slowed its roll-out, this is the first time our community of non-profit and charitable housing provides is aligning our capabilities and aspirations towards a common goal: building 3,000 new affordable apartments in the next three years. These are not mega-projects, but rather neighbourhood-scaled projects across the city creating diverse, accessible, and affordable communities.

Indwell is working directly with our Provincial government too, encouraging a new investment stream to specifically empower building supportive housing. The twenty-five percent of the capital costs proposed to be covered by Ontario could have a three-year payback, as the mental health, addiction, and many other services paid for by the Province will become exponentially more effective. The municipality also benefits through dramatically reduced social services, public health, and emergency response costs.

Can the Commonwealth Games provide another opportunity for all levels of government to invest public resources to maximum public benefit, while saving lives and significant resources in the process? Our Board of Directors set a target for us to help create 3,000 new affordable apartments in Hamilton through the Games’ legacy – augmenting the Hamilton is Home goals. If our community is serious about ending homelessness, eliminating the housing wait list, and enabling our essential workforce to sustainably afford their homes, we need to pursue every opportunity to overlay resources to achieve permanent solutions.

The pandemic has revealed that new approaches to government co-operation are possible. Can we provide our civic leaders with cost-effective and actionable plans to solve the affordable housing crisis? We think so. And as citizens, we actually get these investments back. Federal funds are primarily low-interest loans; Provincial investments lead to huge savings for Health, Social Services, and other Ministries; our City grows the tax levy and streamlines services. Add to this the massive financial benefit to individuals and families who escape the cycle of housing instability.

Over the coming weeks, Indwell will continue pursuing viable strategies for permanent housing solutions through Hamilton is Home, the possible 2026 Commonwealth Games bid, and other investments with our community housing allies. We will bring our best ideas and experience to the table, honestly presenting the costs and benefits of every investment with transparency and accountability – because our vision is Hope and Homes for all.

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