Photo: James Bombales

It’s been called Toronto’s Brooklyn for its arts scene, old brick buildings downtown and new-found appeal, and at one point it was set to be the country’s hottest housing market.

But now, Hamilton is one of the weakest markets in Ontario, a new report from Central 1 Credit Union suggests — so what happened?

“Part of it, it’s a supply issue,” Edgard Navarrete, Central 1’s regional economist for Ontario, tells Livabl.

Of the nine large markets Central 1 covers across Ontario, just three saw home sales decline in April, which was a surprisingly strong month compared to March for many Canadian cities.

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Hamilton’s month-over-month drop of 0.5 percent was less pronounced than Thunder Bay’s 4.6 percent decline and Kitchener–Waterloo’s 1.3 percent decrease. Still, Navarrete says it’s “worth noting” despite being “nothing alarming yet.”

The decline amounts to five fewer homes trading hands but arrives at a time when several markets (Durham Region, Toronto, Mississauga, and London–St. Thomas) had sales surge in the double digits.

“There’s not enough supply out there for people who are still looking for a home in this market,” Navarrete says of Hamilton.

Month-over-month, the number of newly listed homes fell 3.8 percent. That’s going to put a lid on transactions to an extent.

Listings are pulling back as homebuyers are seeing Hamilton prices fall, a result, at least in part, of homebuyers looking to the lower-priced condo segment, which is accounting for a greater share of the market.

The average price of a Hamilton home, including condos and houses, was down 0.3 percent in April, versus March.

“What usually happens when you have strong price growth, let’s say at or above the rate of inflation… it usually entices people that are on the fence about listing their home,” Navarette says.

When prices are down, the opposite is often the case.

A major underlying factor of all of this is economic uncertainty. As a result of a growing trade conflict between China and the US, Navarette says, “People don’t want to over-leverage themselves.”

US tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum — which were only removed this week — have also been a headwind for the housing market in a port city known as “Steeltown” for its once booming steel industry that contributes to the local economy today.

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