Advertisement

Hamilton considering ‘modular homes’ to increase affordable housing stock

A temporary modular housing suite is visited by the public while on display in Robson Square in downtown Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday October 3, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ben Nelms. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ben Nelms

Hamilton is looking at a unique way of addressing the city’s affordable housing crisis.

At the emergency and community services committee on Thursday, councillors approved a motion that calls on staff to report back on developing two pilot projects for modular housing.

It’s an idea that was brought forward by Ward 4’s Sam Merulla on behalf of Coun. Chad Collins, who isn’t on the committee.

Collins championed modular homes as being much cheaper to build, citing an upcoming CityHousing Hamilton report that the average cost of affordable housing units currently sitting at $475,000.

Click to play video: 'GTA real estate prices staying up despite coronavirus crisis' GTA real estate prices staying up despite coronavirus crisis
GTA real estate prices staying up despite coronavirus crisis – May 29, 2020

“The construction costs are off the charts right now. It’s much more expensive to build a traditional style bricks-and-mortar unit. And modular housing provides an opportunity for housing providers to stretch their dollars further and build more units for less.”

Story continues below advertisement

Read more: Indwell opens newest affordable housing community in Hamilton

Collins also cited the efficiency of building modular homes, which are prefabricated off-site in a factory and transported to a site for assembly — a process that he compared to LEGO while addressing the committee.

He said chasing the modular housing strategy would help cut down on Hamilton’s affordable housing waitlist, which currently has just over 6,200 people on it.

“The biggest need on the waitlist is for singles and couples,” said Collins. “So, these modular units — although they are quite small — they are working in other communities, and they would fit that demographic quite nicely.”

Read more: Federal government commits $1B for cities to buy motels, hotels for rapid-housing program

The federal government recently announced a commitment of $1 billion for cities across Canada to invest in ‘quick build’ affordable housing projects, which would include modular housing.

Click to play video: 'Federal government commits $1B for cities to buy motels, hotels for rapid-housing program' Federal government commits $1B for cities to buy motels, hotels for rapid-housing program
Federal government commits $1B for cities to buy motels, hotels for rapid-housing program – Sep 21, 2020

Ward 3 Coun. Nrinder Nann expressed support for the motion in light of that funding announcement.

Story continues below advertisement

“Many of us were hoping that that pot might be bigger, given the needs that have been emerging steadily through the pandemic, in terms of the need for quick-build affordable housing solutions that are also dignified,” said Nann. “So it’s great that this motion will help our municipality to leverage a built form that enables us to get that housing in place sooner rather than later.”

The motion also calls on staff to report back on how to expedite the approval and construction process, aiming for “rapid development” of the pilot projects within the next 12 months.

It’s a goal that Edward John, the city’s director of housing, said could be feasible, especially in Hamilton’s downtown core, where the city has taken a “flexible approach” to zoning.

“That being said, we are going through that process of identifying a number of sites and continually increasing that list of potential sites for a number of purposes, but all of them geared toward achieving some kind of innovative approach to affordable housing.”

Earlier this year, the city of Toronto moved forward on its own modular housing plan that involves building 1,000 homes in the next decade — with 100 created by this fall, and another 150 by next spring.

Sponsored content