Downtown Bureau

Mixed-Income Neighbourhoods Need an Actual Mix of Incomes

Increasing the supply of new apartments is a better way of keeping units within affordable ranges than reducing the demand by preventing downtown Hamilton from being a desirable place to live.

By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published November 04, 2015

Last week the Hamilton Spectator ran an interesting series on the tenth anniversary of the original Vital Signs report on poverty in Hamilton.

We are in a much different situation today than we were in 2005. The economy is growing, property values are increasing, new building permits top a billion dollars each year and urban neighbourhoods that were desolate and despairing a decade ago are currently revitalizing with new residents and businesses reinvesting in the vacant buildings and empty lots.

One concern that has emerged is the fear that gentrification will push low-income residents out of their homes.

Proactive Housing Policy vs. Affordability-By-Neglect

It's definitely time for Hamilton to start developing proactive policies around housing before we find ourselves in an affordability crisis, but we need to be careful not to fall prey to the misguided notion that keeping the downtown and lower city poor, run-down and unattractive is good social policy.

If buildings are not maintained, eventually they become unsafe and uninhabitable, which is what has already happened to many buildings downtown. In other words, blocking urban reinvestment ensures that the "affordable housing" made possible by neglect and disinvestment will steadily crumble away.

We must also confront the perception that "mixed income" is sometimes a euphemism for "no middle class or rich people". Achieving mixed income in a poor area means, by definition, that as more middle- and upper-income residents move in, the proportion of low-income residents will decrease to something close to the average over the city (roughly 20 percent).

The best way to do this, of course, is to build new accommodation without displacing existing residents. Since so many downtown properties are empty above ground level, surface parking or entirely vacant, there is lots of room to do this without eliminating existing units.

The Residences of Royal Connaught, a new development that recently came under some scrutiny in an RTH article, has been held up as an example of gentrification driving up prices. However, condo units in the building start at $261,000, which is really very modest compared to condo prices in Toronto or Vancouver.

We Need New Residential Units

Of course, the ideal policy is to build in a requirement to integrate 15-20 percent geared-to-income units in larger developments. However, that policy becomes much easier to implement when property values are higher and developers have profit margins to play with.

For decades, downtown Hamilton had the opposite problem: property values were so low that there was no way for developers to make money constructing new apartment buildings. As a result, essentially no large rental apartment buildings have been built downtown since the 1970s.

Now, as downtown Hamilton becomes more attractive, vacancy rates are dropping and rents are rising as demand increases against a flat supply. Increasing the supply of new apartments is a better way of keeping units within affordable ranges than reducing the demand by preventing downtown Hamilton from being a desirable place to live.

It's also important to remember that the buildings from the 1960s and 1970s will eventually need to be renovated (or demolished) and that will also cost money. This is why the new apartment developments are so important! Objecting to new apartment buildings as "gentrification" is just wrong-headed.

Nicholas Kevlahan was born and raised in Vancouver, and then spent eight years in England and France before returning to Canada in 1998. He has been a Hamiltonian since then, and is a strong believer in the potential of this city. Although he spends most of his time as a mathematician, he is also a passionate amateur urbanist and a fan of good design. You can often spot him strolling the streets of the downtown, shopping at the Market. Nicholas is the spokesperson for Hamilton Light Rail.

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By flacktivist (anonymous) | Posted November 04, 2015 at 14:31:23

What some people seem to forget is that these neighborhoods used to be mixed income, they weren't always poor and downtrodden. Having middle income people move back into them brings them back closer to what they were before society abandoned them and everyone who had any money fled to the mountain and the burbs.

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By upbeatindowntown (anonymous) | Posted November 04, 2015 at 14:40:57

Great piece. Only in Hamilton could we spend 2 decades lamenting urban decline only to start lamenting urban revival as soon as the bleeding stops.

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By Core-B (registered) | Posted November 04, 2015 at 15:48:53

I'm a long time removed from this, but I used to live in a west mountain suburb. I don't know how it came to be (or if the practise still exists ) but a certain percentage of the houses were made available to very low income people. In my opinion this worked very well. If this isn't happening now, I'd be interested to know why

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By scrap (anonymous) | Posted November 04, 2015 at 17:54:57

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted November 04, 2015 at 20:40:55

There are some people who believe that we should stop using the word gentrification.

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By RobF (registered) | Posted November 05, 2015 at 09:13:09 in reply to Comment 114624

There's long been a debate in academic circles about "gentrification" ... including the suggestion that it is chaotic concept, or a term that stands for so many things that it has lost its descriptor and explanatory usefulness.

Whatever one wishes, and I believe it doesn't matter what the phenomenon "gentrification" describes is called (white-painting, social upgrading, revitalization, studentification, middle-class resettlement), the basic issue is involuntary displacement. That is a real problem that impacts existing residents, particularly lower-income tenants.

But it's not a reason to allow buildings, infrastructure, or cities to fall into disrepair. The more fundamental issue has always been poverty, income inequality, and differential access to credit/mortgage capital in a competitive, market-driven housing system. You can either begin to address that or devise and implement policies to intervene via rent-to-income geared housing, expand the co-op housing sector, or subsidize homeownership and encourage the production of lower-cost housing units. (in Canada the postwar suburbs are largely a product of the last option).

My point is we do have a choice. And it isn't between allowing widespread urban decline or the formation of islands of slum housing and vibrant, revitalized urban centres. The "gentrification debate" is just a tidy way to talk about that which makes us most uncomfortable: class. After several months of listening to politicians talk about the "middle class" maybe we should acknowledge what that acknowledges ... that to have a "middle" you must have a "lower" and "upper" too.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted November 04, 2015 at 22:00:04

One of the most interesting mixed-income revitalizations I've seen in recent years is Toronto's Regent Park. Seeing it transform over the last few years has been nothing short of astonishing, and its transformation is still well under way as one of Canada's biggest mixed income developments in progress.

It is not perfect (e.g. temporary relocations of low income residents when old lowrise apartment blocks got demolished to build large mixed income buildings) but anybody that duked out the temporary relocation inconvenience -- got much better digs and are generally happier, the business suit types (who pay full price) walking past poor families / immigrant families (who got a low income unit), in front of budget restaurants & slightly fancier patio cafe, in what arguably looks like vastly better apartments. There's lots of new spaces available including community centers and a now-well-loved indoor municipal swimming pool.

It actually appears to be paying for itself (the costs of providing the low income housing is fully covered) while simultaneously creating new low-income housing units -- A lot more low income units got created as well, as low-rise 3-storey block buildings got replaced by 30-storey-league towers.

Do you think we should eventually have something similar to this, at a smaller scale, happen somewhere in Hamilton? Good or bad idea? If so, where in Hamilton?

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-11-04 23:03:30

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By RobF (registered) | Posted November 05, 2015 at 10:46:25 in reply to Comment 114625

With respect to the Regent Park revitalization I don't think we can simply say "good" or "bad" idea yet. The reviews for the original Regent Park were initially positive. When we talk about it now we have the benefit of decades of hindsight. The first phase of the new Regent Park is 6 years old and the Don Mount revitalization to its east about 10 years old. In the Don Mount, Ray Moriyama designed mid-rise modernist apartment blocks were torn down and replaced with denser, more "urban" townhouses/row housing with a restoration of the original street grid. That might be a better comparison to consider.

I would flag as something to for further consideration the notion that the new Regent Park "appears to be paying for itself". On what basis?

It is true that to finance the redevelopment the City of Toronto and TCHC have leveraged the gap between low-rise modest density 3 storey apartment blocks and rowhouses set within, perhaps, too much green/open space and a taller, high-rise apartments and greater lot coverage with mid-rise buildings and low-rise townhouses in-between. But the ability to monetize intensification of use isn't unlimited.

Over time the new public housing units will degrade unless infused with new capital, which is what private, market housing has to do periodically ... 100 year-old character homes don't stay "nice" magically. So in 20, 30, 40 years if we don't see continual investment in maintenance and improvements we will face the same dilemma with the new public housing units we've financed via allowing a private sector partner buy some of the land for intensified use. Except that trying to increase from the new density/use to something greater will be harder the next time around.

Not necessarily an argument for or against. But a reminder that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Comment edited by RobF on 2015-11-05 11:51:31

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted November 04, 2015 at 23:14:17 in reply to Comment 114625

I think this model should be be used for the townhouse complex at James and Strachan. It's a massive plot of land, horribly wasted with a suburban type development and huge parking lots. Walking distance to James N and the West Harbour, next to a new GO Station and on a phase 1 LRT line, this is a prime spot to redevelop the affordable housing into something nicer, and turn the site into a mixed income area by adding in new residents as well.
I know Hamiltonians always flip their lids at high-rises for some reason, but this site could house mid/high rise developments at the James/Strachan corner and scale down to lower rise buildings towards the West and North.

Perhaps something like this at James/Strachan: http://www.bethesda.org/userfiles/image/...

Scaling down to this size for the rest of the site with common greensapce at an interior courtyard: http://www.condosalescenter.ca/wp-conten...

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By RobF (registered) | Posted November 05, 2015 at 09:42:28 in reply to Comment 114626

The Jamesville Townhouse complex is not massive or horribly wasted ... unless you mean that of all the rest of the low-density housing in the lower city (i.e. detached and semi-detached housing).

Do some analysis. I live three blocks to the east of the complex ... my block has 27 dwelling units per hectare and about 2.2 people per dwelling unit, which adds up to 5850 people per square km. My block is mostly 100 year-old single-detached houses on narrow lots with some semis. Not high density, but not 1950s suburbia either. Certainly dense enough to support transit and be walkable, etc.

The Jamesville complex by comparison clocks in at 31.58 dwelling units per hectare and 4.22 people per dwelling unit, which adds up to 13,324 people per square km. It has surface parking lots because that's cheap/low-cost and because the designer opted to separate parking from the individual units.

I'm not defending the architecture or form of the Jamesville complex ... it is very typical of low-rise public housing design from its era 1950s/60s. And I certainly wouldn't recommend we return to the clean-sweep sort of renewal thinking that led to its construction. But we do need to attend to certain biases when talking about it.

Density doesn't simply equal height of buildings. In fact you can achieve livability and walkable, transit-supportive density with a mix of low-rise detached, semi-detached, and row-housing ... certain blocks with the narrow short lots in the Keith neighbourhood reach into the 35+ units per hectare and 10,000 people per square km range with this mix.

We use height and hyper-intensification for other reasons. Generally, because we wish to preserve the character of other less intensely used land nearby ... or to create architecturally distinctive buildings, or to maximize ROI on land development (sweat the land as they used to say).

Comment edited by RobF on 2015-11-05 10:59:54

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By RobF (registered) | Posted November 05, 2015 at 09:54:54 in reply to Comment 114635

Oh ... and the secondary plan includes this property in a corridor of gradual change. The existing land use designation would allow for considerable intensification, but the heights permitted are either 2-4 storeys or 3-5 (i can't remember off hand).

Beyond creating more units and maintaining the public housing units, it would be nice if a revitalization/redevelopment/intensification of the complex were to take place if it restored along the James fronting part of the property some retail/commercial at grade. Some old North Enders still lament the loss of street retail during the renewal era. The Jamesville complex, by the way, was the site of a large Cotton mill before it was renewed in the late-1960s.

Comment edited by RobF on 2015-11-05 11:08:37

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted November 05, 2015 at 10:27:19 in reply to Comment 114636

great thoughts. And I agree, density can be significantly increased by going to 3-5 stories. Don't need towers here per se. James N retail frontage would also make a lot of sense with the new GO Station, LRT and future cycling greenway along Strachan.

I love the pics of the old Cotton mill prior to demolition. Would have been an amazing urban loft/ renovation project.

I think sites like this are good candidates to increase the density in the neighbourhood without overpowering it. Can't very well demolish other intact blocks of housing, such as your street. But could def see a large redevelopment here.

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By RobF (registered) | Posted November 05, 2015 at 11:21:46 in reply to Comment 114640

Personally, if redevelopment of Jamesville does happen i'd want to give the architects/urban designer a little more flexibility with permitted heights than the secondary plan allows. There is a big difference between allowing a few storeys of extra height to allow for better design than simply allowing 20 or 30 storeys, because developers might want it (Tivoli I'm looking at you). That said, you are correct to say that many view anything taller than their house as something to oppose.

With the Cotton Mill I totally agree and think it wise to watch closely what happens with the large industrial building on Wellington north of Hamilton General. It was bought recently for 4 or 5 million. I hope it is rehabilitated into urban lofts and craft work spaces like 270 Sherman North.

The problem with most old buildings is that they aren't viewed as historic or heritage until it's too late. I spend a lot time in archives or reading thru old newspaper clippings and so my perspective is shaped not just by what we think in the present, but by an awareness of what others thought, or at least were recorded saying, at various points in the past. In the 1950s and '60s the dominant thinking was that the Victorian past was something to leave behind and that it was necessary to rebuild cities for a new, more modern age (the Victorian city was described as dirty and unhealthy because it was too crowded and lacked adequate light and ventilation, etc). The context has changed (we don't burn coal and we are slowing rethinking automobility). We now are surrounded by what was built to replace the Victorian city and find it wanting in an oddly similar way. We need to develop a finer appreciation for 1950s and '60s modernism and preserve its best qualities, while retrofitting our cities to remove its excesses.

Comment edited by RobF on 2015-11-05 12:24:26

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 05, 2015 at 11:52:13 in reply to Comment 114645

David Proulx wrote a book called Pardon My Lunch Bucket in 1971 to commemorate Hamilton's 125th anniversary. He wrote with great passion about how the city's renewal efforts were "cutting away the rot of the Victorian age." Of course, we know today that those buildings which avoided the scalpel are among our most treasured heritage assets. That realization led me to hypothesize a trough of architectural appreciation around 60-70 years after a building is constructed, after which time the public may come to appreciate its value if it manages to survive the wrecking ball.

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By RobF (registered) | Posted November 05, 2015 at 13:11:56 in reply to Comment 114647

Exactly right ... 50-70s is old, tired, and relatively ubiquitous, 100 years is old, historic, and increasingly rare.

I remember the section in Pardon My Lunch Bucket that you're referring to. Eric Arthur's otherwise fine book No Mean City (1965), which really did a lot to get a new generation of urbanists to appreciate Toronto's historic buildings and urban fabric, does the same thing in its epilogue. Arthur complains about the awfulness of Toronto's Victorian thoroughfares like Queen St and Danforth, etc., and praises urban renewal projects like Regent Park as visionary. We perceive or value things differently now.

I try to approach the need/desire for change with a certain humility as a result. We have to make decisions and we have to accept that we don't know what the end result will be. But we still need to be able to change things and adapt cities to new needs and desires (never underplay the latter as a motivation for change).

If we learn anything from the modernist period it would be to avoid benevolent authoritarianism in environmental design (see Edward Relph's 1981 Rational Landscapes for more on that ... but the rigidness of our old zoning bylaws and building regulations get at part of his argument) ... and to be skeptical of architects, designers, and planners when they take the form of "the great practitioner" or the technocrat as "master builder".

I'm heartened by the rise of tactical urbanism, the proliferation of the so-called amateur urbanologist, and the continual broadening of who participates in urbanism/urbanistic discussions. That is a real difference between now and then, IMHO.

Comment edited by RobF on 2015-11-05 14:15:03

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted November 05, 2015 at 07:31:38 in reply to Comment 114626

I think this model should be be used for the townhouse complex at James and Strachan.

That's a baffling little development there. I suppose that it's a legacy of the same sort of thinking that brought us Jackson Square and a high school with a lawn on one side and a giant parking lot on the other ...

"People seem to really like the suburbs. They're all leaving downtown for 'burbs."

"Hey, I know! Maybe if we make downtown more like the suburbs, then people will love downtown again!"

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By highasageorgiapine (registered) | Posted November 05, 2015 at 10:57:33

261 000 dollars for a bachelor is perfectly affordable for all people because prices in toronto and vancouver are really crazy? for a single individual making a median income, not a chance that would be realistic. perhaps in the sense that it is affordable in this current housing bubble with unsustainable property value growth where everyone is in a rush to become overleveraged.

you mention that we need to make ~20 percent of units geared to income though do not mention that any current developments do not include that (including the very affordable connaught you mention), nor are there any plans to include that as part of any ongoing or future developments. i think that stating "opposing new developments because of gentrification is wrong" isn't really tackling the issue of why people concerned about gentrification are hesitant about development. i would be singing the praises of new developments if they were good examples of mixed-income growth and urban renewal but the examples you cite as reasons for being pro-development are not happening. these buildings are not going to contribute to the mixed income neighbourhoods you are talking about, all while throughout much of the lower city the disinvestment will continue. this is seemingly okay to most people here because they are fortunate enough to be able to afford to live in the portion of the city that is being propped up by investment. rental buildings and social housing continue to suffer from numerous issues that resign many of people in our community to declining standards of living.

development and change is inevitable and generally is a force for good, but relying on market forces to serve the whole community like you write here has little basis in reality.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted November 05, 2015 at 12:08:39 in reply to Comment 114643

Affordable is relative to what prices actually are in Hamilton as a whole, which is what we want if the goal is to have mixed incomes. Maybe you mean affordable to people currently unable to afford a house anywhere. The average house price in Hamilton is now $433k. As you suggest, affordable in absolute terms is different from affordable compared to current options.

But you seem to have missed the whole point of the article: for downtown to achieve "mixed income" actually means attracting middle and upper income residents while not driving out low income residents. We will have achieved mixed income when the income mix is similar to the city as a whole: 80% middle and upper income and 20% lower income. The developments I mentioned are certainly attracting the missing demographic! The (future) danger is that we might lose lower income, but that is still a pretty distant scenario for downtown and lower city. Do you seriously imagine that we are currently in danger of seeing fewer than 15-20% lower income in downtown and the lower city?

It is important not to claim that a condo is not affordable because it is more expensive "for what you get" (e.g. number of bedrooms) compared to a house. That's about preference, not affordability. A family of four can live quite comfortably in a two bedroom apartment, if they prefer an urban lifestyle and the neighbourhood offers good urban amenities.

$261k is affordable by that standard for people who don't want a house and are happy with a condo. The idea that everyone should prefer a detached house is just not reality. Many people, given a choice, are actually choosing a smaller condo over a large detached house.

With an average household size in Hamilton of just 2.5, and the fact that 60% of households are 1 or 2 people, there are many many people for whom a one bedroom apartment or condo is perfectly reasonable choice. I lived in a 2 bedroom 80 m^2 apartment with my partner and two small children for almost a year and it was just fine. Giving people the choice of between a $433k house and a $261k condo downtown is giving them an affordable choice for a different lifestyle (note that even the smallest 52 m^2 condo has a separate bedroom it is not a studio).

And the bottom line is that we need to start demanding new policies geared to income units in larger developments. But we are certainly not at the stage where the handful of new developments, after decades of nothing, should be opposed on those grounds. And several of the new developments are actually rental buildings!

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-11-05 13:23:53

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted November 05, 2015 at 12:46:43 in reply to Comment 114649

Just to put some numbers on affordability.

The median household income in Canada is $76k per year. Based on a 4% interest rate, 1.25% property tax and $50k down payment, anything up to $370k is affordable to the average household based on no more than 30% of income on mortgage and property taxes.

http://www.mortgagecalculator.org

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-11-05 13:50:09

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By Crispy (registered) | Posted November 05, 2015 at 13:59:00 in reply to Comment 114650

How long for someone making $76K to save $50K for a down payment?

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By duh (anonymous) | Posted November 05, 2015 at 14:14:36 in reply to Comment 114653

Depends on how much you save every month obviously.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted November 05, 2015 at 14:31:57 in reply to Comment 114654

Obviously it varies depending on how good a saver you are and what other fixed expenses you have, but people are usually advised to save 10-20% of gross income. If you decided to put it all towards your $50k downpayment it would take a household with a $76k gross income about 6.5 - 3.3 years to save for the downpayment.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-11-05 15:32:41

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted November 05, 2015 at 14:34:19 in reply to Comment 114655

Don't forget first time buyers can get a mortgage with a 5% down payment through cmhc

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 05, 2015 at 12:01:30 in reply to Comment 114643

Did you actually read the article? Nicholas specifically asserts that Hamilton needs a proactive housing policy to ensure that neighbourhoods are inclusive for residents with a mix of incomes.

In fact, the status quo - keeping housing units in urban neighbourhoods 'affordable' by dint of being so neglected and run-down that no one with a choice would want to live there - is itself an appalling case of "relying on market forces", which you rightly deplore.

People being willing to pay a reasonable price to live in a reasonable home in an urban neighbourhood are not the real problem. The real problem is that far too many people don't have enough money to pay a reasonable price for reasonable accommodations and have no choice but to live in appalling conditions in decaying low-quality housing.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2015-11-05 13:31:50

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By RobF (registered) | Posted November 05, 2015 at 16:45:40

Good article Nicholas ... we need to get back in the business of progressive city-building. That means figuring out how to build neighbourhoods with a range of housing type, size, and tenure options. Link that with economic policy that creates new reasonably secure employment at decent pay and we'd really be rockin' in Hamilton. We have a lot going for us.

Comment edited by RobF on 2015-11-05 17:46:52

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By emmacubitt (registered) | Posted November 06, 2015 at 13:38:29

I agree, in order for Hamilton to truly be an 'ambitious' city we are going to need to make it a great place for everyone to live - including people with lower incomes. According to Hamilton Official Plan, we need to create 377 new rental units for low & moderate income households annually, including housing with supports (this is further broken down to 252 units/yr that are at least 20% below average market rent). According to the OP, “Meeting the housing targets for housing affordable for low and moderate income households will require sustainable and predictable funding from senior levels of government.” (https://www.hamilton.ca/sites/default/files/media/browser/2015-01-15/urbanhamiltonofficialplan-volume1-chapterb-communities.pdf pg 6/55). How far are we from these targets right now? And how do we get there?

Creating a 20% affordability mandate for downtown rental developments like Nicholas suggests would certainly move us towards this goal. But how do we do this, without demanding that only the for-profit developers carry the load (which likely is not feasible)? Yesterday at the PED talk Gord Hume talked about municipal funding models like adding 1% to local sales and gas taxes to pay both for municipal infrastructure as well as community needs such as affordable housing. A change like this obviously take time and a groundswell of support from taxpayers & elected officials.

In the meantime, a more grassroots and immediate approach would be for we as citizens to financially support Hamilton’s non-profit housing providers as they strive to develop & maintain affordable housing options across our City. I am thinking of City Housing Hamilton, Good Shepherd, Victoria Park Community Homes, the YWCA, Indwell…and many others.

Recently I have heard of local faith groups coming together to try to figure out how they can co-launch a fundraising campaign to create new affordable housing in our downtown because they recognize that there is so much need. This real city building.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted November 06, 2015 at 14:42:57 in reply to Comment 114688

Thanks very much for your comments. I agree that requiring a certain percentage of geared to income residents in new developments is only part of the solution. Not-for profit private organizations are another ingredient, but experience has shown that we should not rely on charitable groups to provide essential social services.

If we agree that affordable housing is a strategic priority for the City, the City itself should be coordinating the provision of affordable housing using a combination of tools (including working with private developers and charitable groups).

However, ultimately, the City itself should be building more of its own social housing and not relying only on others. My impression is that the City has built very little new social housing in the last 20 years.

The Federal Government has an important role to play as well: Canada is the only advanced country without a national housing policy.

The Federal Government needs to get involved in social housing again (as it did in the past). In France, the national government required all municipalities with a population greater than 50,000 to ensure 20% geared to income housing, with 20 years to comply and significant aid and flexibility in how to achieve this standard. That is another approach, which makes cities responsible for results rather than mandating methods. Note that "affordable housing" is not necessarily limited to low income residents in high cost cities like Paris or Vancouver.

Charitable groups can help, but they are not the solution.

Our modern governmental system of welfare, regulation and social programs came about through crisis when the traditional charitable organizations of villages and small towns failed completely to provide necessary services to the new large industrial cities (like Manchester or Sheffield).

http://www.raisethehammer.org/article/54...

Like food banks, the fact that charitable groups are having to try to create affordable housing is a sign of societal failure.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-11-06 15:44:07

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By RobF (registered) | Posted November 06, 2015 at 23:25:33 in reply to Comment 114691

I had forgotten about your piece on Victorian Cities. Manchester often gets the attention, but your comment about Hamilton being the Birmingham of Canada is interesting. Asa Briggs classic text on the subject notes that in the late-19th century Birmingham was thought to be the best governed city in the world.

Comment edited by RobF on 2015-11-07 00:26:10

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By Selway (registered) | Posted November 06, 2015 at 20:23:42 in reply to Comment 114691

"Like food banks, the fact that charitable groups are having to try to create affordable housing is a sign of societal failure."

Well, it depends on your position in society. From the point of view of a large residential landlord and the property management outfits who provide the muscle, everything in Hamilton is going well. From the perspective of tenants, not so well. But then, if there were no lambs there would be no tigers.

You write:

"It's definitely time for Hamilton to start developing proactive policies around housing before we find ourselves in an affordability crisis, but we need to be careful not to fall prey to the misguided notion that keeping the downtown and lower city poor, run-down and unattractive is good social policy."

We already are in the affordability crisis, but there's not much point debating that at present. I wonder where you detect the "misguided notion." You provide no instances of anyone recommending such a policy. The fact is, tenants in many multi-residential buildings downtown and elsewhere have for years attempted to get their landlords to maintain the premises in better repair. Landlords have preferred to put their capital elsewhere. Where, exactly, no-one knows except they and their lawyers - and of course the financial institutions and municipal administrators involved when the reinvestment is in real estate.

But we can infer, for example, that DiCenzo, which recently sold off four high-rises in Riverdale after (according to some occupants) letting them run down for some years, has put their money into other development projects. Thus, last Saturday's "New Home Living" supplement to the Spec featured an inspirational photo of Anthony DiCenzo, flanked by Sam DiSanto and Vince Molinaro of the Molinaro Group, introducing the world to their shared vision for the final phase of Paradise Townes. Paradise Townes is number 151 in the Newhome Area Guide, and is located south of Rymal Road and just west of Garth, along with a great deal of other new no-rise building that is occurring south of Rymal. Hence the putative need for expanded capacity on the Red Hill and the Linc - a need which just became a little more pressing since Di Cenzo now has 50 million dollars from the sale of those Riverdale properties that must be put to work. Meanwhile, back at the old homestead in Riverdale, the new owner, Interrent Real Estate Investment Trust will bring in their property managers, CLV Group, to "reposition" the buildings in the market. In the context of apartment towers, "reposition", as we learned from the way in which Greenwin handled their Robert Village buildings, means practical "renoviction."

Of course we need new construction for affordable rental and other forms of tenure. It is very unlikely that private capital will provide it. But for the state to come in, the political situation has to change. IMHO, it would be helpful if those who are expressing a concern for affordability in the downtown would extend that concern through the whole city, and join with the current tenants of actually existing buildings to insist on value for their rent money. From that, the rest will follow.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted November 09, 2015 at 10:54:35 in reply to Comment 114706

There have been various campaigns, more or less organized, against those who have renovated empty buildings along James St and the downtown, which has been one of the hardest hit areas in terms of demolitions and decay (as well as population and business loss). The opposition and disinterest of some Councillors to resident-lead efforts to make the downtown a more liveable place is evidence of similar attitudes that the downtown core is best kept poor and unattractive.

Here are the specific examples you asked for:

The fat-cat campaign against James N:

https://www.raisethehammer.org/comment/5...

The Tower's "Now it is undeniable" campaign against any sort of investment or redevelopment downtown:

https://www.raisethehammer.org/article/2...

The article criticizing the Connaught development:

https://raisethehammer.org/article/2730/

And our former Mayor's stated preference for keeping Hamilton cheap and "affordable" rather than encouraging re-development and reinvigoration of the downtown core and lower city.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-11-09 11:55:33

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By RobF (registered) | Posted November 06, 2015 at 23:27:04 in reply to Comment 114706

reposition = renoviction

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted November 06, 2015 at 20:36:56 in reply to Comment 114706

pretty sad to see the sprawl industry still running the show here after all these years, and despite our councillors and staff knowing better. Was one of the refreshing things about McHattie that I miss. The worst thing that could be said about him from the old fashioned media is that 'latte drinkers' liked him. Also known as 'residents'.

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By emmacubitt (registered) | Posted November 06, 2015 at 16:38:17 in reply to Comment 114691

Charitable groups certainly do fill the gaps of urgent societal needs, however. It was charities that first founded schools and hospitals, for example, until our governments caught up (and there are still many run by charities).

Even if we prefer a society where charity is no longer necessary, we are certainly not there yet. Supporting those already doing the good work in our community is a good place to start, in my opinion, while still pushing for change in government policy. The need for shelter (or food, or healthcare, etc.) is now.

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted November 06, 2015 at 20:07:02 in reply to Comment 114697

I agree. The government needs to step up to the plate, as illustrated by Nicholas. But there is certainly a great role to be continued by charities. I personally don't hope for a day where we envision a society without charities. There's something wonderful about people who live, work and interact with neighbours coming together to offer services and support through various charitable means. Government can and should play a big role, but I'd hate to lose the personal neighbour to neighbour connection so many charitable members enjoy in their communities if they were replaced with government staffers simply doing a job. Food banks, churches, shelters, housing agencies, group homes, supportive housing etc.... there is a TON of good work being done by amazing people in our city everyday. I wonder what the added cost to taxpayers would be if every single social agency was closed and replaced with government agencies?
Many wouldn't be replaced. Their services would simply be eliminated, leading to huge social ramifications.

Here's just one of many good local organizations doing some great work in Hamilton: http://indwell.ca

Bring on more government policy and funding, but let's not push out local charities with boots on the ground here in our own community.

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By RobF (registered) | Posted November 06, 2015 at 22:12:41 in reply to Comment 114703

I get the sentiment you're driving at ... but really charity isn't a substitute for empowerment. Give a person a fish they eat for a day, teach them to fish they can feed themselves. I don't think it's strictly a government vs. third-sector argument either given that one often partners and provides funding to the latter.

In practice we need a mix of charity and activism. I think what you are talking about is community and mutual aid. The growing need for food banks, emergency shelters, etc., is a symptom of societal failure caused by possessive individualism, and rampant income insecurity and inequality.

Comment edited by RobF on 2015-11-06 23:14:15

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted November 06, 2015 at 22:43:34 in reply to Comment 114710

yes, we're on the same page. empowerment is key. The goals for all involved should be to offer the training, skills, help, housing options, transpo options etc..... to see folks able to improve their lives, not depend on anyone.

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By RobF (registered) | Posted November 06, 2015 at 23:10:12 in reply to Comment 114711

I do have enormous respect for local organizations that provide needed services, and people who volunteer and are of generous spirit. There is something to be said for just being active and engaged ... community-building or participating itself is a worthy endeavor. The need for that won't stop if we don't need food banks or homeless shelter. And no, I don't think a government bureaucrat can or should do that.

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted November 07, 2015 at 09:25:43 in reply to Comment 114713

agreed.

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By scrap (anonymous) | Posted November 06, 2015 at 20:51:18

Of course Mr Leach has not gone to a foodbank, shelter and the numerous not for profit industrial complex.
If no experience then why talk or write. Should not the readers be hearing from the peasants?

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By heh (anonymous) | Posted November 08, 2015 at 16:26:24

This part really spoke to me:

"It's also important to remember that the buildings from the 1960s and 1970s will eventually need to be renovated (or demolished) and that will also cost money. This is why the new apartment developments are so important! Objecting to new apartment buildings as "gentrification" is just wrong-headed."

I've noticed that many, MANY of the apartments in/near the core, as well as the mountain, are currently undergoing refurbishment - mainly regarding balconies, parking garages, and awnings/openings. This is a good thing - many of these were looking pretty forlorn, not to mention unsafe. Hopefully, this is a sign of more money coming in for rent, and that some of that money is going in to sorely needed structural repair. This is a good thing!

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