Published by Teviah Moro, The Hamilton Spectator on Monday, September 25th, 2023

Kevin O’Toole never imagined he’d end up a snowbird. A restaurant worker since 1964, he knew that wasn’t in the cards for when he reached retirement age. “I didn’t expect to live in Florida six months of the year,” O’Toole says. “I wish, but no.” Still, at 73, he’s holding down a part-time job at McDonald’s to make ends meet. Between rising rent and spiking grocery bills, things are tighter than ever, including for others in his highrise who have no choice but to rely on meagre pensions alone to get by. “It’s basically that senior friends of mine … are going to be on the freakin’ street, and we don’t have anywhere else to go. They’re not alone. Hamilton’s affordability crisis is so deep and pervasive it warrants an all-hands-on-deck response, a new report suggests. The Hamilton Community Foundation’s call to action — “Vital Signs: Affordable Housing” — offers a snapshot of a dire landscape.

Among its startling data is that Hamilton has lost 23 affordable units in the private market for every new one that has been built over a decade.

Meanwhile, rents have marched upward and social assistance rates have lagged, further hardening the crunch as the city’s homeless ranks swell.

The report is the focus of discussion by an expert panel at the downtown Hamilton Public Library on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

“First of all, it’s a signal that all parts of the community — if we’re to make any headway on this — need to bring a sense of urgency and focus,” said Terry Cooke, Hamilton Community Foundation president and CEO.

That includes government, especially senior levels, which have either diminished their role or been “absent” on the housing front, Cooke added.

“All of that is, I think, a challenge to folks to pay attention to this, and to demand accountability from all levels of government and the private sector to help deal with this crisis.”

Wednesday’s presentation will feature an interview with Mayor Andrea Horwath. Professors Steve Pomeroy and Brian Doucet, along with Justin Marchand, CEO of Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services, are on the expert panel. Justin, will be present at the Vital Signs: Affordable Housing report launch and participate in the panel discussion.

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Photo owned by Barry Gray / The  file photo