Editorial

Next Stop for Connaught Proposal: Provincial Government

Citizens concerned about the process and the selection of the Connaught should direct their energies and efforts toward the provincial government.

By Ryan McGreal
Published September 21, 2009

Last week, Council voted to approve six projects to recommend to the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) for consideration under the Canada-Ontario Affordable Housing Program Extension, a partnership between the federal and provincial government to create and repair affordable housing units across Ontario.

The six projects are:

  1. Grand Connaught Development Group Inc., In Trust, 112 King Street East, 100 units;
  2. Hellenic Community of Hamilton and District, 37 Strathcona Avenue North, four units;
  3. J. Beume Real Estate Limited, 106 and 127 Burton Street, 27 units;
  4. Polish National Catholic Church of Canada, 2782 Barton Street East, 83 units;
  5. 815488 Ontario Inc., 1489-1495 Upper Gage Avenue, 59 units; and,
  6. Marie Curie Sklodowska Seniors' Lodge, 101 Nash Road North, 40 units.

The first recommendation, a mixed income development in the derelict Royal Connaught Hotel that would build 100 subsidized rent units and 106 market-rate rent units, has drawn intense controversy.

The city claims that the development will spur revitalization of the downtown core, but opponents argue that another development for low-income residents in an area that already has a lot of low-income housing will only serve to ghettoize the poor without bringing economic diversity to the core.

Flawed Evaluation Process

Also at issue is the process by which this property was selected. Last May, the city issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for proposals under this program. A team of city staff evaluated the proposals with representatives from the Housing Division, Development Planning Division, Downtown Renewal Division and Financial Services Division.

The proposals were evaluated according to two sets of criteria: technical merits and cost effectiveness. Under the technical merits evaluation, submissions were assessed according to the following weighted criteria:

Affordable Housing RFP: Technical Merits Criteria
Strength and Background of the Bidder 30%
Site Characteristics and Developer Concept 20%
Site Readiness 15%
Construction Readiness 15%
Location within the city of Hamilton 20%
Total Scoring 100%

The Connaught proposal received the highest rating under these criteria.

In the days leading up to and after the Council vote on these proposals, new information came to light that bears significantly on the Grand Connaught consortium's "strength and background":

However, city staff do not appear to have given consideration to these facts when they were evaluating the proposals. This casts serious question on the soundness and validity of the evaluation process.

Secret Vote

At the September 16, 2009 Council meeting in which the proposals were presented for voting, Council voted instead to defer the decision after Councillor Bob Bratina stated that legal issues had come to his attention that needed addressing.

Unfortunately, they agreed to defer the decision to a special meeting later that same night which they conducted in camera. At 11:45 PM they emerged from the second meeting and stated that they voted 10-6 (with Bratina abstaining) to support all six proposals.

Most councillors voted to approve all six proposals because they were worried that singling out the Connaught proposal would result in legal liability for politicizing the RFP process, and putting the brakes on all six proposals would result in missing the provincial deadline for submissions.

Councillor Sam Merulla claimed, "This was a bureaucratic decision with no political interference until now," but as Mary Louise Piggott pointed out later, the process was already politicized when staff decided to ignore the tax arrears and lawsuit and give the Connaught proposal top marks.

As Councillor Bob Bratina later posted in a comment on Raise the Hammer, "What is Council's role if, as we are told, the projects must be approved or rejected as a group, and in the order of the staff rating? Why then is this not simply sent directly to the Province without Council direction?"

Numbers Don't Add Up

Another problem with the Connaught proposal is the cost structure. Under the submitted proposal, the province would contribute $12.9 million toward the Connaught project, with the city contributing another $5.7 million in "Development Charge relief and property tax savings through the 'New Multi-Residential' tax class and relief from Parkland Dedication charges."

That works out to $18.6 million of the total $27 million cost, or two-thirds, to provide slightly less than half the units at 20 percent below market rates.

$18.6 million for 100 units works out to $186,000 per unit. At current downtown property values, that money could be used to buy a hundred four-bedroom houses and give them to people. Alternately, the $18.6 million could provide a 20 percent discount on the purchase price of approximately 500 homes.

This does not seem like good value for the money spent, and it seems to suggest that at least some of the money earmarked for providing affordable housing will actually apply to the market-priced component of the development.

Next Step for Citizens

Unfortunately, Council decided to rush ahead and vote for the proposal despite all of these problems. Now the bundle of projects will go to the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) for consideration.

At this point, citizens concerned about the process and the selection of the Connaught should direct their energies and efforts toward the provincial government:

MPP Contact Information
Hon. Jim Watson, MPP Minister, Municipal Affairs and Housing jwatson.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Sophia Aggelonitis, MPP Hamilton Mountain saggelonitis.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Ted McMeekin, MPP Ancaster Dundas Flamborough Westdale tmcmeekin.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org

The deadline for municipal submissions to the MMAH is September 30, 2009, and the final approval for funding under the COAHP rests with the MMAH.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

53 Comments

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By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2009 at 15:25:02

I would guess that the City would argue that the Technical Merits Criteria were simply in the nature of guidelines.

Further, who is to say that they didn't consider the lawsuit and arrears in considering the proposal? Staff may have interpreted "Strength and Background of the Bidder" simply to mean ability of the bidder to get the job done. A pending lawsuit and tax arrears do not really impinge on a developer's ability to complete a job (unless the arrears indicate a liquidity problem).

I really don't know if there's much point in attacking staff's evaluation process, since their ultimate purpose was simply to offer advice to council.

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By JonC (registered) | Posted September 21, 2009 at 15:31:14

Apparently it wasn't to offer advice, but to decide what projects were selected, as evidenced by Bob Bratina's comments, "What is Council's role if, as we are told, the projects must be approved or rejected as a group, and in the order of the staff rating? Why then is this not simply sent directly to the Province without Council direction?" So how they make they chose their recommendations is exceptionally important.

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By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2009 at 15:34:12

Technically it was still just to offer advice, since Council had the ultimate say. Bratina was being rhetorical there.

The fact that convention dictates that council defer to staff's recommendation does not change the fact that council still has executive decision making power.

I agree that how staff arrives at its recommendations is extremely important, I just don't know that we can hold them to account.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 21, 2009 at 15:37:28

I just don't know that we can hold them to account.

As I see it, the idea here isn't to hold staff to account per se; it's to demonstrate to the province that despite the high score and council endorsement, the Connaught project is a very controversial and problematic selection to receive the provincial funding.

Unlike council, which is apparently not allowed to exercise their oversight of the RFP process without incurring a lawsuit, the MMAH has the final say in cherry picking which, if any, of the recommended proposals to fund.

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By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2009 at 15:46:06

You'll note that I'm also skeptical of the claim that council is "not allowed to exercise their oversight of the RFP process without incurring a lawsuit".

It's a good point you raise, though. Staff was providing advice to council, and council is simply providing advice to MMAH (who has the real executive decision making power). You can't be held liable for providing bad advice unless you owe a duty of care to the person you're advising (e.g. a lawyer owes a duty to provide sound legal advice to her client and can be sued in negligence if she fails in that regard). That sort of duty of care does not exist as between staff and council, nor between council and the Ministry. It certainly does not exist as between staff/council and the consortium, so again I fail to see where the liability stems from.

I don't want to say that the City Solicitor was outright wrong or negligent in advising the city, but I just don't as of yet understand how he came to the conclusion he did.

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By JonC (registered) | Posted September 21, 2009 at 16:19:45

If council is told the Connaught is the top proposal by staff and they decide that it is a shit idea without getting an alternate opinion, the Connaught group would be rightly pissed off as council has just decided they don't deserve a 18M freebee, despite having their staff tell them it was the best idea. So, council would be potentially putting them out 18M dollars. Which could open them up to a lawsuit.

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By zookeeper (registered) | Posted September 21, 2009 at 16:27:56

"So, council would be potentially putting them out 18M dollars. Which could open them up to a lawsuit."

The very definition of entitlement!!

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By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2009 at 16:33:37

Why would that open them up to a lawsuit? Did the council owe a duty to the consortium to give them $18m? No of course not. That's just not how the law works.

Here's a scenario to illustrate:

Let's say that I decide I want to build a shed on my property.

I tell my assistant to go out and solicit proposals from builders, and to submit to me a recommendation on which builder he thinks would be best for the job.

The assistant gives me the recommendation, but I don't like the builder (maybe I know they owe me money, or they have a lawsuit pending against me ;)). I decide I'm going to go with someone of my own choosing. Does the rejected builder have a claim against me? Almost definitely not.

I don't want to get in to the nitty gritty of this, but sometimes, yes, the person asking for the proposals can be held liable to the bidder. For instance, if I submit an RFP for a project, and bidder A tenders at $150 whilst bidder B submits at $160, and I still choose bidder B, then I might be accountable to bidder A for lost profits, etc. (e.g. if A and B's tenders were essentially identical except for price). But that's just not the case here.

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By JonC (registered) | Posted September 21, 2009 at 16:36:21

They might not win, but if council decides unilaterally that the staff were wrong about one specific case, that can be dangerous in cases where many of the same people that oppose this project might support another. Which is why it's important to have the process laid out as well as providing council sufficient time to review.

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By Dave Kuruc (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2009 at 16:40:19


- - - - > Hellenic Community of Hamilton and District, 37 Strathcona Avenue North, four units;

Wait - this is the old firehall! Damn the residential on this one. This needs to be something that the neighbouring community can use - ie. cafe, theatre, meeting space...

They just had surface care in there cleaning the brick and stone and I just assumed something ELSE was happening here.

Argh.

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By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2009 at 16:40:44

Not only would they not win, they would have their statement of claim struck out and their entire claim dismissed as not disclosing a cause of action. In other words, they would barely get their foot in the door of the legal process, and then, after being forced to back down, they would have to pay costs to the city.

The city shouldn't be so afraid of absolutely baseless and frivolous lawsuits that it compromises the quality of its decision making. That's just pathetic and weak.

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By JonC (registered) | Posted September 21, 2009 at 17:13:39

I don't know enough about it, so I'll concede all points of law. But lawsuit or not, imagine the proposals were for grants to develop hotels. City staff reveal their list with the Connaught at the top, same 18M from the government and the city says, no thanks. We'd be all over their asses for tossing out city staff recommendations. Which is why it is important to have the staff have an open evaluation process.

If the staff's advice is taken as gospel by council, then council serves no purpose. If staff do what they feel like, staff serve no purpose.

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By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2009 at 17:20:03

I completely agree that Staff should have a transparent evaluation process - for the benefit of council, as well as the city at large.

But statements like Merulla's just go to show that council wouldn't really care, even if they did know down to a tee how staff arrived at their recommendations.

How can we tolerate an elected body which thinks its proper function is just to rubber stamp the recommendations of unelected (and therefore unaccountable) officials?

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By Curious (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2009 at 17:41:53

Unfortunately you are all tilting at windmills at this point. In spite of some very astute observations on the part of some of you, especially Tammany, if you think the province is going to mess with what the city has given it, you are wrong. Why should the province invite lawsuits if the city was unwilling to change its list?

The Province and the Feds will say: "Look; we put out many millions of stimulus dollars to help affordable housing projects in communities. If Hamilton hasn't been able to get its act together without controversy, maybe we will just skip over this list and given money elsewhere." Or, they might say: "This is the list Hamilton gave us; this is the priority list we will fund. Period."

I doubt very much the province will want to fix Hamilton's procurement issues. These should have been fixed by the host municipality.

Also, what's with the numbered company? Who is to say that outfit isn't owned by the same group? Where is the transparency there? Over to you Tammany!

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted September 21, 2009 at 17:43:35

There was an affordable housing consultation in Hamilton a week so or ago. The Ministry was here and well many of the posters here could of brought their opinions forward at this consultation process.

Since poverty and affordable housing are issues in this community, it seems that it would of been the best idea for you to have attended, to bring your view points forward.

I posted it, but I was given the thumbs down.

A missed opportunity would you not say?

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted September 21, 2009 at 17:46:32

Here was the response from Andrea Horwath's office to the letter my husband sent protesting the Connaught proposal: "Hello Mr. Martin: MPP Horwath has asked me to thank you for your email and respond on her behalf. As the proposed redevelopment of the Connaught Hotel building is a municipal issue and one that will be determined through City Council I have forwarded your concerns to your city councillor, Mr. Bernie Morelli. Sincerely, Terry Frisken, Constituency Assistant".

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By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2009 at 17:49:12

The Ministry doesn't give a sh-t about whether one proposal will have possible negative ramifications for the economic rehabilitation of Hamilton's downtown. That's just not their mandate.

You might possibly, possibly get your MPP to take an issue on this, but that doesn't guarantee anything.

I don't think there's really anything we can do on that front (although I still think you should all send letters to the Minister, and the MPPs). That's why I've concentrated my discussion on attacking the process by which Council arrived at its decision.

What #ed company are you talking about Curious?

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By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2009 at 17:53:17

Michelle, that is a ridiculous response. The decision is now in the Ministry's hands, meaning that it has become a provincial issue. The municipality has sent in its list of recommendations. Its function has been fulfilled.

You should correct them on this point.

This is just laughable!



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By Curious (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2009 at 18:16:23

See, Andrea's response is exactly what the provincial people will tell you. They will all hide behind the city's process. The list IS a city document; the ministry will not contradict the elected council on this issue. Why should they?

Tammany, I am talking about one of the listed benefactors on the list is a numbered company. How is Council or staff to score an unknown entity on their ability to deliver if they are anonymous? And if they are known, should they not have been identified? Where is the transparency?

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By Mahesh P. Butani -- http://www.metroHami (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2009 at 18:25:53

Hello Ryan,

I believe this may be a more logical approach to projecting numbers based on the sketchy information that is out there. This is being suggested purely on my experience and knowledge of construction and is not being presented here to counter anyone's opinions or deter any on from thinking the way they do. If this does manage to re-align the ongoing discussions around this issue, it would only help us as a community to move forward more confidently.


Total Project Cost is $ 27 Million
100 Units -- Rentals at 20 % below market rates
106 Units -- Rentals at market rates
=========
206 Total Units


A) Grants & Reliefs:

$12,900,000 - Federal/Province grant -- Canada-Ontario Affordable Housing Program Extension
$ 5,700,000 - Reliefs -- City Devp charge relief + Prop. tax saving + Park Ded. charge relief) *
=========
$18,600,000 -- Total Grants & Reliefs
* (This is a cost saving incentives and does not show up as hard cash infusion for construction.)


B) Construction Cost Outlay in Real Terms:

$12,900,000 - Cash Funds from Federal/Province --- 48% of project cost
$14,100,000 - Cash Funds input by Developer, ($5,700,000 + $8,400,000) --- 52% of project cost**
=========
$27,000,000 -- Total Project Construction Cost (assumed)
** (Cost savings by Relief of Devp. Charges and Park Dedication charges assist working capital requirements - In this case of around $3 Mil. to $5 Mil. to service a construction project of this size. Fed/Prov. Grant funding flows downstream as per construction draws upon completion of various stages of construction completion.)


C) Construction Cost Per Unit:

Construction Cost of 206 Total Units = $131,068 Per Unit **
- Construction Cost of 100 Units at Below Market rate units = $13,106,800
- Construction Cost of 106 Units at Market Rate = $13,893,208
------------------
** assumption: The construction specifications and cost for both the market rate and below market rate are same, as both units types, would be randomly mixed through out the same building, with no visible distinction between either types.

Notes:

1) Construction cost assumptions are based on an approximate building size of 150,000 square feet (+/-) @ $180 per square foot (+/-), with average unit size of 650 sq. ft x 207 units = 134,550 square feet + 15,450 sq. feet of foyers/corridors/stairwells/services/misc. areas).
2) These numbers do not assume an ideal/preferred location for this development on the site, nor the right or the wrong use of the building/s or the site. Such issues are best resolved in a non-adversarial manner through a collaborative public/private Design Charrette.

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By H Mag (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2009 at 18:26:22


Also:

- - - -> J. Beume Real Estate Limited, 106 and 127 Burton Street, 27 units;

"New homes to spring up on brownfield site

City grant made conversion of Burton Street factory site viable

By Nicole Macintyre
The Hamilton Spectator (Ontario)
January 18, 2006

A contaminated brownfield in north Hamilton, once home to drug addicts,
old chemicals and a flea market, is about to be transformed into new homes.

Developer Jack Beume tore down an abandoned factory on Burton Street,
near Victoria Avenue and Barton Street.

Beume plans to start construction in the spring on 21 townhouses.

The project is being supported by a $470,000 grant from the city's ERASE
program, which helps with environmental cleanup and improvements."

is also behind

"The 51,334 square foot Mountain Bowl building, on the north side of Stone Church Road East and Arbour Road, is being revamped to include a smaller bowling operation of about 28,000 square feet and three retail stores or office space of about 7,200 square feet each. A restaurant and a bank with a drive-thru teller are planned for the front of the 4.5 acre site in the next year or two."

amongst the other dozen or so properties he owns around Hamilton.


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By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2009 at 18:43:45

Curious, I thought that's what you meant.

I have no idea what the city's policy is in terms of solicitation of bids and identification of bidders. A corporation, whether numbered or named, is a legal person wholly capable of submitting a proposal, bidding on a contract, entering into a binding legal agreement, etc.

If council were stumped as to who was really behind the proposal (but knowing connections in this town, of course they were not) they could have performed a corporate profile search to identify the directors of the corporation (just as the Spec did with the Connaught group).

Quite honestly, I don't think there's anything shady about submitting a proposal through a numbered company.

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By Imperial (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2009 at 19:38:00

I thought the City had a standing policy not to do business with any person or company that has an unresolved legal matter? I know this is the case with numerous other potential development partners. So I think the simple fact that Valeri has a pending lawsuit means they cannot do business.

As I noted in the previous Mad Connaught thread - it's about process folks. The City process is clearly flawed here.

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By Nat (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2009 at 14:08:36

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By Curious (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2009 at 14:25:31

Tammany, I wasn't suggesting anything shady, but if one of the scoring criteria as Ryan's post indicates is the track record of the developing group, then how can track record be assessed if the numbered company isn't easily discerbible. And if the developing group is known, as I suspect is the case, then why not for the sake of total transparency list them along with their company?

This tidbit just adds to the curious details of this whole proposal.

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By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2009 at 14:49:39

Curious, one reason not to list the names of the directing minds is the fact that, as I mention above, a corporation is itself a legal person. It is the corporation making the bid, not the shareholders or directors who are causing it to do so. This is so even if the corporation was formed for the sole purpose of participating in the tender process.

That's the lawyerly answer.

From the perspective of the average concerned citizen, however, I agree that it makes sense that the directing minds of a bidding corporation should be revealed so as to permit council to make a truly informed decision (although it is open to them to take into consideration the past performance of the #ed company, if it has any history).

But there is a valid "juristic" reason not to do so.

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By Valerie (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2009 at 17:49:10

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By JonC (registered) | Posted September 22, 2009 at 18:24:46

Your comment is reminiscent of McCarthyism. Ta Da!

Explain your stupid comments or don't bother writing.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted September 22, 2009 at 19:34:25

A good rule in most discussions is that the first person to call the other a Nazi automatically loses the argument. … from The Economist

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 22, 2009 at 22:49:17

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted September 23, 2009 at 13:20:11

@Ryan

"$18.6 million for 100 units works out to $186,000 per unit. At current downtown property values, that money could be used to buy a hundred four-bedroom houses and give them to people. Alternately, the $18.6 million could provide a 20 percent discount on the purchase price of approximately 500 homes."

Good analysis Ryan. Your starting to sound like an economist!

Many people (including myself) propose that investments in social welfare follow the course of reasoning you outlined above.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted September 23, 2009 at 22:22:07

Michelle Mrtin: you seem to want to pussy foot around an issue. The system is what it is.

To hell with being formal, call s apade what it is, if you are afraid , get the hell off the band wagon.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted September 24, 2009 at 09:21:35

Grassroots-- I'll gladly call a spade what it is-- which is why I won't call someone a Nazi unless they actually are one. It is a slanderous insult that has no place in civilized discussions. If you feel this is pussy footing when discussing issues of social justice with you and some of the others on this thread, then fine. I'll absent myself "the hell off the bandwagon," as you put it.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted September 24, 2009 at 10:21:56

"$18.6 million for 100 units works out to $186,000 per unit. At current downtown property values, that money could be used to buy a hundred four-bedroom houses and give them to people. Alternately, the $18.6 million could provide a 20 percent discount on the purchase price of approximately 500 homes."

Good analysis Ryan. Your starting to sound like an economist!

Many people (including myself) propose that investments in social welfare follow the course of reasoning you outlined above.

Yeah, 'cept that's fallacious reasoning. Not that it's a bad idea in principle, but it assumes a bunch of things that a government buyer can't control, like sufficient stock of well-priced four-bedroom houses in well-serviced locations, and also that unit quality standards are up to snuff (which given the state of many cheap, 4bdrm downtown homes, is unlikely).

The Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington reported sales of approximately 1,100 units in Hamilton AND Burlington AND Grimsby in August 09. Across the year there is an average of about 1,000 sales per month in those areas. You're talking about trying to find 100 decent-quality 4 bdrm units at ~$160k each (which very conservatively assumes you'll spend only ~$25k upgrading each unit).

A quick check of realtor.ca suggests there are currently less than 80 listings for 4bdrm units in the lower-city area between Dundurn and Kennilworth, under $160k. Okay economists, how long do you think it will take for the average price of those units to go through the roof with government starts buying them up?

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By JonC (registered) | Posted September 24, 2009 at 10:33:56

The point which I made initially wasn't specifically to buy existing four bedroom houses, but that 180k towards renovations is ridiculous. The four bedroom house was merely an example of what was available on a per dollar basis. Anyone posting on this board could hire someone to build a new complex of 100 units (or a number of smaller complexes) for significantly less than 18M. Also keep in mind that the Connaught won't be renovated immediately, so you're concept of buying all of the houses at once is flawed from the beginning... But I digress, way to take the completely wrong point from a statement, and try to find a reason that it wouldn't work. Kudos.

The other idea of establishing ownership (whether through a co-op or paying back a government loan instead of renting at 80% market rates), is that a pride of ownership is in place that does not exist when renting.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted September 24, 2009 at 11:10:48

Oh c'mon JonC--don't be sad. This entire conversation/debate/whatever started off with a bunch of people, taking a government statement about building affordable housing downtown and finding reasons why it won't work--and look at all the kudos you got for it! You can't go using the great spotlight of criticism unless you're willing to have it shone on yourself sometime.

Also, how much do you think it costs to renovate a 100yr old building? I have no idea what represents good value for money since I'm not a developer and have few reference points, but as an example, Vancouver's social housing in the Olympic Village is going to cost them nearly $600,000 a unit, according to media reports. A release on the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing website indicates that a recent project in Kawartha Lakes cost approximately $143,000 a unit, and another project in Whitby cost about $120,000 a unit.

I've been trying to figure out how much the Regent Park redevelopment cost but can't find much online, so if anyone knows, please share. Regardless, there's some real variation in costs out there.

But apparently we're all experts on social housing all of a sudden, and since you seem to know fairly authoritatively that anyone can get a 100 unit building built for significantly less than $18.5M, I wouldn't mind having some more stuff to read on this topic if you're willing to share.

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By JonC (registered) | Posted September 24, 2009 at 12:29:32

The only objection that I've written about here has been the cost (well that and the lack of a visible process).

I don't care how much it costs to renovate a 100 year old building. I don't care about the cost of Regent Park.

Please note that the costs you mention 600k, 143k and 120k, are costs to build and own. You are comparing that to the 180k per unit to renovate, and still have the units be owned by a private developer with only a 20% rental reduction (compared to market rates).

In your opinion does giving the 18M to a private company to provide a 20% reduction on 100 units provide equal value to acquiring the housing in full. You're not going to answer straight, so the correct answer is, it doesn't. I'm all for criticism, if it is valid. Your points are undeveloped, don't address the point and meander.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted September 24, 2009 at 15:34:54

In my (non-expert) opinion, it does not provide good value for money, but I'm happy to acknowledge that I'm not an expert in this area and that there are many complex factors involved in this issue that (as an outsider) I can't properly assess. That's why I like reading and informing myself about issues before I take a position...y'know, in lieu of knee-jerk criticism in an echo-chamber.

You obviously do not share this approach, and you don't need to tell me: I can tell that you don't care about all of those other issues, JonC, that is very apparent--you haven't bothered to present much in the way of evidence to provide any context or back up the position you've taken: you're more interested in arguing about arguing (and my failure as a human is that I always get sucked into these arguments).

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted September 24, 2009 at 16:23:39

And sorry, one last thing: My partner tells me I'm being condescending, so apologies for that (she sees my furrowed brow when she reads my words), but I really truly do have a problem with the way this project is being criticized by people here. Ryan's piece above comes closest (in my opinion) to legitimately laying out the problems with the Connaught development, but I still think a lot of it is cherry-picking.

For example, how many people who have shared their opinion actually have experience with a government tendering process? You call this a flawed evaluation process, but that is based on (I think) pretty weak evidence that staff under-weighted a couple of (potentially minor) issues. Given my experience with tendering processes, this appears to be a non-issue, and as a friend of mine says:

"The tendering process is one of those sausage-making dealies, where if you want to enjoy the end product you shouldn't really watch it being made. That's not to say that it might not be flawed, but really the same process is used for dozens or hundreds of other municipal decisions..."

It seems to me (and him) that some of you are only picking it apart here because you don't like the thing that was approved. I would challenge you to pick over the approval process for any city projects that you HAVE liked (if you've liked any) and then honestly say if they think it should be scrapped on that basis.

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By JonC (registered) | Posted September 24, 2009 at 22:14:20

I get snarky on line as well, so apologies back. You're right that there are people looking to argue against the project for any reason possible, and you might be surprised that I've actually criticized some of those arguments. Again, my objection is with the cost per unit, which we seem to be in agreement about.

If you are curious about the economics of the situation. The program that the grants are being applied for under is the Canada-Ontario Affordable Housing Program. The funding is being provided at the federal level by CMHC and being matched by a combination of provincial&municipal funds. The requirements that CMHC have laid out for the program are below

http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/Asset712.aspx or more in depth at http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/AssetFactory.as...

Presumably they are applying under Program A4 - ROUND 2 - RENTAL COMPONENT

"The maximum combined contribution is $150,000 for any unit, and is available only if the average contribution in a project is at or below $70,000 per unit."

So the project is looking for 120k per unit in funding through the program (+ the municipal tax break). Making it well above the average. Looking at past projects, only smaller projects geared towards individuals with special needs or victims of abuse appeared to be receiving significantly more than the 70k per unit. In most cases I'm all about trumpeting the complexity of issues, but in this case the money is being directed specifically towards affordable housing, and I can't image the project is delivering 5M more in benefit to those requiring affordable housing than the average project. But if it is, I haven't anything about it coming from the builder or the city. Actually, I hadn't realized until I was digging up the links, that they are asking for more money for this project than has been distributed across the city since the program's inception in 2005.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted September 24, 2009 at 23:40:34

@Borrelli, I appreciate what you're trying to say and I appreciate your civility and politeness, and I hope you won't be offended by what I'm about to write and I hope you read the whole thing and I hope you take it in the spirit in which I wrote it, but: you're being a monkey here.

You can go on about how TECHNICALLY it was done more or less properly (though 30% of the total weighting doesn't seem like "(potentially minor) issues" to me) and how it's not really any worse than other tendering processes and all that lawyerly stuff...

But the fact is, and you and I both know it, that the project stinks and almost no one thinks it's a good idea. Different people have different problems with it, some are more worried about using a Grand Old Building as subsidized housing, some are more worried about ghettoizing the core, some are more worried about a process that has a Bad Smell about it, some are even just anti-poor and prejudicial against "bums" and "lowlifes".

But people don't like it. Not one bit. And council knows it. And the province ought to know it too. That's the real point of this article. Maybe we're all being too clever by half about it, but that's the fact. It's a pig, and going on about how the process meets this and that professional standard is just smearing lipstick on the pig. (What is it with the animal metaphors?)

Anyway I hope you're not offended and that you take this for the respectful comment it really is even though it might not look that way.

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By ap4413 (registered) | Posted September 25, 2009 at 08:05:55

Does anyone know how big the units are? If they are bachelor pads 180k per unit does sound like a lot of money. But if they are three or four bedroom units it sounds like a great deal.

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By JonC (registered) | Posted September 25, 2009 at 12:15:38

For whatever reason I can't find even square footage for the entire building to work backwards from, but anticipated rents for the non-supported units are $800

http://www.thespec.com/News/Local/articl...

"Battaglia says developing the other 106 open-rate units and commercial space will be privately financed. He figures monthly rent for the the private units would be in the $800 range. According to Canada Mortgage and Housing, the average apartment rent in the core is $687."

So, above average, but nothing grand, size wise, probably average, with the increased cost being related to the new condition (no mice, soundproof ceilings, all those perks compared to what I've come to associate with older rental units).

I doubt they would be more than 2 bedroom. It's tough to compare location to location and again the condition of the units, but here are some rentals priced at around the same price point http://www.gscrentals.com/Ontario/Hamilt...

And I'm assuming that the market rate and reduced rate units will be around the same dimensions, so if that isn't right, then ignore all of the above.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 25, 2009 at 14:17:37

The units are for seniors and disabled. The government provides considerably more funding for assisted living units as they require retrofitting for accessibility, which explains why the consortium is targetting these units for seniors and disabled - there's more government largesse in it for them.

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By JonC (registered) | Posted September 25, 2009 at 15:26:35

I noticed that in the proposal, but I seem to recall the press releases indicating that the units were to be geared towards the working poor.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted September 25, 2009 at 15:53:09

Michelle Martin: I seem to have upset you a bit, well, the point I was trying to make is that for those that struggle, that term comes up all the time, as the people have no other word to describe the system they are faced with.

I was a meeting earlier this week, in which someone, who is a very quiet individual, well spoken, who has been recognize for their very good work in our community, used the term to describe the "policies" of the local social agency they were dealing with in trying to access services.

If we look at historical facts of that particular nasty, unspeakable political movement of that era, people were segregated and unfortunately that is how those who struggle see things, right or wrong, in terms of language.

They are segregated by policy, and that is what needs to be analyzed and discussed if this community is ever to move forward, in terms of "social justice".

Did you know that single mothers are segregated into groups by the system? They are you know!

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 25, 2009 at 15:59:46

JonC wrote:

I noticed that in the proposal, but I seem to recall the press releases indicating that the units were to be geared towards the working poor.

The press releases are just that: press releases. Battagliaco know that it's easier to sell the idea that it will be working families with a bit of disposable income occupying these units, also easier to demonize the opposition as 'anti-poor'. It's simply not the case. These units are geared for seniors and disabled. Afterall, what are you going to believe, the actual proposal, or the press spin?

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted September 25, 2009 at 16:14:45

Good afternoon Highwater: I am posting this as another perspective.

http://poverty.thespec.com/2009/09/if-ro...

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 25, 2009 at 16:38:43

I'm not sure exactly what you're getting at, grassroots. In any case, Maggie need not fear that these units are intended for working people only - they're not. They're intended for seniors and disabled as the consortium's proposal states. Battaglia, Marini, and other apologists, are of course neatly exploiting the notion of the "deserving poor" with their talk of how this development is for 'working poor', and downplaying the fact that it's actually for seniors and disabled. You have to wonder why they don't have the courage to cop to the truth and defend the idea that poor people who are not able to work are equally deserving.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted September 25, 2009 at 17:01:36

Hi Highwater: The point I was trying to get at, was the disinformation that is out there and how others view things from their perspective of what they are watching and reading.

So many people are upset.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted September 25, 2009 at 18:27:37

"Michelle Martin: I seem to have upset you a bit, well, the point I was trying to make is that for those that struggle, that term comes up all the time, as the people have no other word to describe the system they are faced with.

I was a meeting earlier this week, in which someone, who is a very quiet individual, well spoken, who has been recognize for their very good work in our community, used the term to describe the "policies" of the local social agency they were dealing with in trying to access services. "

Grassroots, I'm not upset in the least.

If people have no other words to describe the system they're faced with, how about equipping them with the right words, specific to their particular complaint, and so increase the chances of them being heard and possibly managing to bring about change where change is needed? Tossing extreme and wildly inaccurate labels at politicians, or people who are just trying to do their job, or people on discussion threads who disagree about the best way to manage the city and to assist those with difficulties, damages the credibility of the person who is complaining, and gets them, in turn, dismissed as extreme-- even though they may well not be.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted September 25, 2009 at 19:13:09

Michelle Martin: Is this the news magazine you are pulling your quote from

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Economi...

It seems that this represent those voices from the top of society and not those of the people.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted September 25, 2009 at 19:41:37

"It seems that this represent those voices from the top of society and not those of the people. "

Grassroots-- just because the Economist's vocabulary is a little highfalutin' doesn't mean they're not on the side of oppressed people. Have you not heard about their correspondent Andrew Meldrum getting himself kicked out of Zimbabwe? (completely tangential, but I'm just making a point)

I don't pretend to understand everything that's written in the Economist myself (not being an economist), but it's a useful magazine nonetheless, and it's editorial position is pretty much classically liberal. Heck, if an article is useful and informative, I'll read it- whether it comes from the centre, the left or the right-- whether it's a grassroots publication or something more established.

Information and knowledge, from reliable sources all along the spectrum, are power.

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