Politics

Bill 60 Beefs Up the Heritage Act

By Jason Leach
Published April 21, 2005

Great news reported by the Toronto Star today: Bill 60 has finally passed in the Ontario legislature. Bill 60 will actually give some power and authority to Ontario's Heritage Act.

Older cities like Hamilton and Toronto have a wonderful plethora of historic buildings that are generally considered to be more of a nuisance by our development industry and even city council. This bill now gives municipalities and the province the power to prevent a building that is designated historic from being demolished.

Until now, the most a city or the province could do is delay a demolition by up to 6 months. This bill, while throwing a dent into a favourite Hamilton pastime of knocking down historic buildings, will be a huge benefit to our urban neighbourhoods and downtown cores.

The big challenge, however, will be getting the development industry to be able to restore these wonderful buildings in a cost-effective, sensible manner. A good place to start in Hamilton is to start charging developers the real cost for their permit and development fees. Right now, developers basically build for free while taxpayers pick up the tab.

We already subsidize the home building industry with roads, underground services, garbage pickup, snow removal, and ongoing maintenance of these services. In Hamilton, we are going even further by building a $500 million highway simply to allow home builders more land on which to build.

I know, we've all been told that Red Hill will bring tons of jobs to the city and turn us around forever. It's simply not true. The only jobs to be had are those constructing the highway (a Toronto firm, of course) and building the homes.

If city council was to start treating the home building industry in a fair and financially sound manner, they would surely see more opportunities to build inner-city projects on brownfields and by reusing historic buildings. Let's hope Bill 60 is a good first step in seeing that become reality.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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