I urge you to reject the current proposal to redevelop the Connaught Hotel.
Personally, I like the idea of mixed income developments and am not dogmatically opposed to the idea of providing an additional 100 units of subsidized housing - though there is a real danger of ghettoization when too much poverty is concentrated in one area.
However, the current proposal does not seem to provide good value for the public investment.
1. The developers are asking for $18 million in public funding, or two-thirds of the total redevelopment cost, to provide subsidized rental prices on only half of the units.
In other words, it looks like some of the public funds ostensibly going toward subsidized housing would actually apply to the market-priced component of the development.
2. $18 million for 100 units works out to $180,000 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 million could provide a 20% discount on the purchase price of 500 homes.
3. The owners of the Connaught property have neglected to pay their property tax for the past three years, despite the fact that they pay a reduced rate for the vacant property.
(Aside: vacant properties should be charged at a higher rate, not a lower one. Why does the city provide a financial incentive not to invest?)
Instead of rewarding the Connaught owners for years of negligence by approving $18 million in public money, Council should vote to repossess the property for tax arrears and sell it to developers who are actually prepared to risk their own money restoring it.
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