The rent is too damn high in Hamilton — but for how much longer?
Published March 15, 2023 at 12:49 pm
In the mid-to-late 2000s, a political party in New York State called The Rent Is Too Damn High Party made headlines and gained notoriety for its simple-yet-affective platform centred around — you guessed it — lowering the cost of rent in New York.
The party’s mayoral and gubernatorial candidates would even participate in debates, uttering the same line over and over again, regardless of the question — the rent is too damn high!
What was viewed as more of a comedy act (Saturday Night Live had a field day), The Rent Is Too Damn High Party has become more and more appealing. What other policy is in their platform? Honestly, who cares.
That leads us to Hamilton, Ontario. The city’s population boom caused extreme volatility in the real estate market as supply lagged to meet demand. The market has since balanced, as it does, but renters are now — to put it mildly — taking a financial beating.
There is light at the bottom of the money pit, believe it or not. But more on that later.
The rule of thumb in renting has always been to find a place that doesn’t cost more than one-third of your monthly salary before taxes. Without getting too deep into the numerical nitty gritty, let’s look at it this way: the median individual income in Hamilton is just over $40,000 (or $3,333 monthly), and according to the latest National Rent Report from Rentals.ca and Urbanation, Hamiltonians paid an average of $1,828 per month for a one-bedroom rental. So you’re looking at around 55 per cent of your monthly income going toward rent. Looking for a two-bedroom? You’re cute. Those went for an average of $2,234 last month.
Year over year, the average monthly rent in February for a one-bedroom in Hamilton was up 20.1 per cent and up 15.8 per cent for a two-bedroom — finishing 18th and 17th, respectively, on the list of 35 cities for average monthly rent.
The average asking rent for all property types in Canada rose 9.7 per cent year-over-year last month to $1,984. It’s the first time since June that average rents have not increased by double digits. Meanwhile, the annual rate of rent inflation has been moderating since reaching a high of 12.4 per cent in November. Rents decreased 0.6 per cent from January and have declined 2 per cent over the past three months.
The locations of the highest monthly rental prices in the country won’t shock anyone. Toronto finished second on the list for both one and two-bedrooms with an average of $2,501 and $3,314. Vancouver, holding strong as a mere pipe dream for prospective renters, saw average prices land at $2,640 and $3,632 in February.
Back in Hamilton, there are signs that the rental market will begin to flatten due to an influx of supply on the horizon.
Housing development permits were given for about 3,750 new homes last year, easily exceeding the city’s target and eclipsing the previous record set in 2021 by almost 1,000. That alone will help bring costs down, but what’s most encouraging is the types of homes being built.
In the early-to-mid 2010s, Hamilton mostly saw single-family use homes cropping up. Apartments and condominiums made up just 10 per cent of the new builds. In 2021, for the first time in Hamilton’s 177-year history, more than 50 per cent of the city’s permits were awarded to apartment and condo developers. In 2022, those projects made up nearly 75 per cent.
So while it may seem bleak now, you and your cat may only have to live exclusively on a diet of spaghetti and frozen pizzas for another year or two.
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