Comment 112089

By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted June 05, 2015 at 09:32:52

(This reply below has no mention of "LRT", as repeat readers know where I stand)

There are a lot of opportunities for low-rise and medium-rise developments all throughout near the CBD of Hamilton. Given good enough city planning, there is plenty of room for Hamilton downtown density can more than triple without tearing down lovely old residential houses -- lots of parking lots, old strip malls, single-storey businesses, and replacing decaying (non-heritage) low-rises with taller buildings.

Now -- affordable housing can be a controversial thing, but I must admit on average, I am generally impressed at what happened to Regent Park in Toronto. There were pros and cons, including temporary displacement of the poor families far away from their jobs, before being moved back into (usually) much nicer subsidized housing units in the glass condo towers (the same towers contain a mix of market price units and low-income housing units). Those who stayed the long haul through the disruption, got rewarded with much nicer housing and a better neighborhood. This is an area that had historically had murder, gun, and crime problems. The area is becoming a mixed-income neighborhood that integrates immigrants working to climb the job laddder, in an area with some rather nice amenities, and actually manages to fund itself. Some of it is rather sterile (now-common cookie cutter glass condos) but has gained some nice patio eateries and attractive recreational facilities, and the area is getting greatly densified in a mix of subsidized and non-subsidized housing.

Recently, I stopped in the area, and saw what looked like immigrants pushing baby strollers exiting/entering a glass condo, tattooed people, hipster young people, business people in suits, and they milled out peacefully. I saw no beggars in the area and a nearby patio pub was milling with people drinking coffee or beer. That's a better scene than the old slum that used to be there.

On the subject of funding -- as far as I know, it manages to self-fund itself, and even the controversial adjacent PanAm Athlete's village (not actually part of Regent Park but in the West Don Lands, part of the area revitalization) nearby is set to profit (or break even) once the condos are sold after the Games, as they are designed to become desirable condos. So it does not have to be a taxpayer drain.

History in other cities show that integrated neighborhoods work far better than segregated neighborhoods or poor-apartments that perpetuate into slums. Some elements of this model can be brought to Hamilton's struggling population (our controversial welfare drain) in conjunction with parallel initiatives to bring a bigger percentage of them back into workforce with the revitalizing downtown with increasing numbers of jobs. It does not all work perfectly and is hard to measure, but it really must be considered against a variety of options -- some say we must kick the welfare drain out of Hamilton but we obviously cannot just callously do that en masse -- and other solutions are needed as a less-costly method of inclusiveness, and pulling at least more of people out of poverty.

Even if Hamilton cannot afford the scale of Regent Park revitalization, it's worth looking into precedents, and borrowing elements of this for smaller scale local projects, and studying some of its elements, its mistakes and its benefits, as an unfolding story book on a social housing experiment that looks reasonably successful so far.

Concurrent job creation initiatives should happen, including working towards better business-friendliness (e.g. revitalizing Main/King), new business lands (e.g. discontinued Steel lands, etc) and downtown offices (e.g. new high rise offices, not just condos), including outlying areas and, of course, better public transit, as an integrated solution, as we are still very transit-poor especially outside peak hours.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-06-05 09:51:26

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