With average rent in Hamilton just under the $2,000-mark, the city is more in need of affordable rental stock than ever. As such, the City of Hamilton is offering $30,000 to local homeowners interested in adding a rental suite to their property -- or renovating an existing one.

The Ontario Renovates Secondary Suites Forgivable Loan Program (OPHI), launched earlier this month, is a move to supply the city’s rental segment while allowing homeowners to capitalize on the hot housing market. Through the pilot phase of the program, eligible homeowners can apply to receive $30,000 in financial assistance in the form of a $25,000 forgivable loan, and an additional grant of $5,000 if accessible modifications are included in the project.

The loan is on a 15-year term and can be put towards the creation of affordable secondary suites in existing single-family homes or garden suites on the property of single-family homes -- provided it’s the homeowner’s sole and principal residence, the homeowner’s total annual household income does not exceed a maximum of $92,500, mortgage payments and property taxes are paid and current, and property insurance coverage is in place.

In addition, suites created through the program are required to remain under the Average Market Rent, as surveyed annually by CMHC, throughout the 15-year term of the agreement. Annual rent increases in accordance with the Residential Tenancies Act are permitted.

“Creating secondary suites in existing housing is an innovative way to tackle the housing shortage that our entire province is facing,” said Mayor Fred Eisenberger in a press release. “Moreover, secondary suites can meet a variety of housing needs, from older adults who wish to stay in place to multi-generational living. Reducing regulatory barriers and making this grant available is a great way to meet our community's needs for more housing.”

Applications are currently being accepted, however, funding is limited and will be provided on a first-come-first-served basis.

OPHI is coined as a “step forward” in Hamilton’s Strategic Plan to Create Affordable Housing Supply in the Secondary Rental Market, approved by City Council in April. The goal of the plan is to improve regulatory conditions, reduce costs, improve administrative processes, and promote the overall benefits of secondary units.