Commentary

Is Affordable Housing a Priority for the Broader Hamilton Community?

In acknowledging that "place matters', we must continue to explore innovative ways to ensure that everyone has options and opportunity to attain suitable and affordable housing.

By Greg Tedesco
Published March 26, 2014

The issue of affordable housing in Hamilton received some added attention two weeks ago when Hamilton Spectator columnist Paul Wilson wrote an article on All Saints church, located at the corner of King and Queen.

It was hoped that this piece of land would be re-developed with a focus on affordable housing. However, as Wilson discussed, the original plans with non-profit Options for Homes have since fallen through. Although this is the case, it still appears as though he diocese has left the door open for the development of affordable housing.

Wilson spoke to current All Saints Reverend, Ronda Ploughman, who stated that the property the church sits on is essentially now for sale. When asked, Will affordable housing will remain a priority?, the Anglican Diocese of Niagara responded on Twitter by saying, "we live in hope that it will be, and are open to partnerships and proposals to help make it a reality".

Like any other housing development, the pieces need to fit and it appears as though this particular match between Options for Homes and the Anglican Diocese of Niagara was not an appropriate fit at this particular time.

At the end of a long string of tweets and comments discussing the article, the land owned by the church and the larger issue of affordable housing, I was left with a simple, reflective question from community member (and director of justice, community and global ministries with the Anglican Diocese of Niagara) Bill Mous:

Is affordable housing a priority for the broader Hamilton community?

Picture of affordable housing in Hamilton

As outlined by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and echoed in the City of Hamilton's Housing and Homelessness Action Plan (HHAP) [PDF], affordable housing is considered to be housing that costs 30 percent or less of a gross household income. In discussing the importance of affordable housing in Hamilton, the Action Plan states, "Affordable Housing is important to Hamilton because it has broad economic impacts and improves the health and well-being of our citizens".

Beyond the economic impact is the health and social impact that appropriate, quality, affordable housing has on individuals and families. Housing is a foundation for health, wellness and in many cases a foundation for hope. We know and acknowledge so often that the conditions we live in dramatically impact our overall health and well-being, which is why the issue of affordable housing is a critical one both now and in the future as the City of Hamilton continues its growth and development.

The picture of housing, for both homeowners and renters, continues to change, as explored this past September by Samantha Craggs in CBC Hamilton's series SOLD! How a hot housing market is changing Hamilton. Through this series, both the social and economic impacts of the shifting housing market in Hamilton were explored, including how the rental market continues to change and how new housing development is not meeting the needs of many Hamiltonians.

"Everyone has a home...Home is the foundation" is the simple yet effective aspiration of the Housing and Homelessness Action Plan. Engaging both the public and private sector on affordable housing issues will continue to be important to fulfil this vision. Through this process, the community must continue to drive the conversation on neighbourhood development and planning.

Place matters

Emphasized in the HHAP is the fact that 'place matters'. Providing accessible, appropriate mixed-housing options throughout our neighbourhoods places an emphasis on equity, inclusion and health. Planning and building inclusive and healthy neighbourhoods can play an important role in fostering community connection, as well as increased civic and social engagement.

Building on the idea of the creation of mixed-housing options is the concept of inclusionary zoning. While not a new idea, it is one that continues to be presented as a way to ensure the creation of affordable units of housing in new developments. Inclusionary zoning presents an alternative to the more highly condensed concentration of built affordable housing, while promoting the creation and sustainability of mixed income neighbourhoods.

Recent discussion around inclusionary zoning policies have been seen in both Canada and the United States, with the potential to ease the pressure on the housing market and intentionally create quality affordable housing.

In acknowledging that "place matters', we must continue to explore innovative ways to ensure that everyone has options and opportunity to attain suitable and affordable housing.

Hope for homes?

While the development and implementation of a national housing strategy must remain a priority, it is very important that we continue to explore community-based ideas of how to respond to the affordable housing crisis we face. Building new spaces, as well as finding ways to creatively utilize existing spaces, are both important aspects of the conversation.

The original question of how we prioritize the need for affordable housing in Hamilton will continue to be important, as will our response. By viewing housing quality and affordability as issues that impact everyone in our communities - and focusing on safe, affordable, appropriate housing as a human right, not a privilege - we can then begin to promote an environment where this type of housing can be attainable for all.

For an opportunity to learn more about the picture of housing in Hamilton and to provide feedback at a municipal level, join the Housing Service's Division at their Housing First & Homelessness Prevention Open House on Wednesday, March 26 from 3-6pm at the Freeway Café (333 King Street East).

Hear the next steps for the City of Hamilton's Housing and Homelessness Action Plan and provide feedback on how to prevent homelessness and help Housing Services better understand local housing needs.

Big ideas

Recently, the Toronto Star asked Torontonians to submit their 'big ideas' that could make their city a better place, both now and in the future. Big ideas linked to affordable housing included a focus on co-operative housing, smaller homes in infill sites and laneways, as well as the provision of second mortgages from an affordable housing fund.

Do you have your own big idea for affordable housing in Hamilton? Community ideas and grassroots movements continue to be an integral voice in neighbourhood development and affordable housing strategies, so I encourage you to continue the conversation in the comment section, elsewhere online and throughout the community.

Greg Tedesco is a proud Hamiltonian for the past ten years. He is interested in issues around health, equity, inclusion & social justice. Connect with Greg on twitter @greg_tedesco.

13 Comments

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By krist (registered) - website | Posted March 26, 2014 at 10:26:44

Affordable housing is a priority for many Hamiltonians who are currently engaged in the new not-for-profit, Hamikton Community Land Trust! Ryan Nelson and Megan Platts will be briefing participants at the HCLT Launch on the Affordable housing case study breakout table April 2nd. One way a CLT can help is By developing affordable homeownership programs to buy properties with individuals or families who would rent-to-own, or have lease-hold mortgages.

Joey Coleman will live streaming the launch, as the RSVP list is full.

Thanks Greg for your continued effort to ensure that affordable housing is on the forefront of public discourse.

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By greg_tedesco (registered) | Posted March 27, 2014 at 13:04:04 in reply to Comment 99162

Thanks for reading and for providing the info! I am planning on attending and will be interested to hear more about it!

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By scrap (anonymous) | Posted March 26, 2014 at 22:13:29

Affordable housing should be a priority, especially for those on any type of social assistance. For years now,many forums have been held, however there has been no movement. Many on Ontario Works use their entire cheque for housing, which leaves no money for food,laundry,personal items,transportation.Why do I get the feeling people mean affordable housing for those who are not so desperate?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 27, 2014 at 07:20:58 in reply to Comment 99199

Frankly, I'd rather see 1) affordable housing be integrated more broadly into the community rather than concentrated in dedicated buildings; and 2) address people not having enough money to live by ensuring they get enough money rather than paternalistically subsidizing the things they need to buy.

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By greg_tedesco (registered) | Posted March 27, 2014 at 13:46:47 in reply to Comment 99202

Definitely. There needs to be effective ways to spread affordable housing throughout communities - including community initiatives, as well as engaging the developers in ways that ensure that new developments include affordable options.

An example from Portland, but important lessons we've seen elsewhere in terms of how growing neighbourhoods with new development can impact individuals and groups if affordable housing options aren't addressed:

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2014/03/affordable_housing_no_recourse.html

An issue again is quality - somewhere along the line the idea of affordable housing has become equated to plainly designed, poorly built models. I think this has shifted to a certain extent in some areas, but needs to continue to be demonstrated in practice - "quality" and "affordable" can't be mutually exclusive.

A much broader selection of examples throughout the world, but interesting to see how others have approached the issue of design:

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/201...

And definitely agree with the last point...affordable housing and inclusionary development is just part of the much bigger picture. Income (and inequality) - and the social determinants of health - must be addressed.

Thanks for the feedback, Ryan!

Comment edited by greg_tedesco on 2014-03-27 13:47:46

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By scrap (anonymous) | Posted March 27, 2014 at 09:07:34

I agree with your view,Ryan. There is a misconception of those who are on social assistance,which for years has been put into people's minds by MSM. The feds gave up funding housing,we have no national housing strategy and given that the health accord runs out this year,I fear things are going to get worse.I wonder what will be a motivating factor to get people united for the common good for all!

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By menrvasofia (anonymous) | Posted March 27, 2014 at 10:08:10

People won't see the issue until it affects them personally, until their own housing insecurity is threatened. Until then, they can't believe it will happen to them and if it does, well, they have smarts, they think they can manage.

How to switch on their empathy, how to tap into their own fears, is the only way to get them to see this issue impacts us all, from Ancaster to Stoney Creek.

Homelessness happens to "other" people....

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By byron zorzos (anonymous) | Posted April 01, 2014 at 07:25:44 in reply to Comment 99213

I agree with you Margaret

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By scrap (anonymous) | Posted March 27, 2014 at 16:34:17

Greg, most likely you are a fine individual with a good heart, however, I have been active for 10 years and the housing situation has gotten worse, considerring the fact that in December 2012, that community start up was eliminated. People on any type of social assistance, who live in housing that has a constant, endless bedbugs, cockroaches, lack of repairs, go thru landlord and tenant court, must live in horrid condittions, never mind the lack of enforcement from the so called by law or laws end of things.So given the response or queries form those the lead the pre budget consultation, you know those, who Noam Chomsky refers to as the enlighted ones, those put in place to ensure that items such as austerity go thru with a vengence, what change do you think is going to happen??? Did you know that in December 2012, that the poverty roundtable event at City Hall invited those in low income, however, we were not really allowed to speak, as the people in the know like media expert Laura Babcock and the rest of the enlighted ones were there to suppress the reality of those who live in desparation. So if you think that the business world is going to change anytime soon, then well, what can I say about what and who you are representing. Social determinants seems to be a catch phrase by those who have no real clue about things, since they do not live it. You know the saying walk in my mocassins or wlak the walk before talking the talk!!!!

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By byron zorzos (anonymous) | Posted April 01, 2014 at 07:23:54 in reply to Comment 99264

Hi Scrap,

I would like to hear more about your experiences with the Poverty Roundtable and possibly the Affordable Housing Flagship. It appears that the membership around these prestigious tables is made up of the same enlightened ones.

Byron 905-928-6259 mobile

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By Cinic (anonymous) | Posted March 27, 2014 at 21:17:27

If you give something for nothing it will not be valued. There are thousands of social housing units in the city. Do the residents keep them clean and well maintained? A significant number do not thus costing us tax payers even more money that could have been used to help other people.

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By byron zorzos (anonymous) | Posted April 01, 2014 at 07:33:11 in reply to Comment 99276

Clinic,

This might be the case with the conventional "subsidized" housing models. What is misunderstood here as it has not been accurately represented is that Options for Homes is an ownership model. It is strictly an unique financing vehicle that allows those who would otherwise be marginalized in the Real Estate market to purchase a home ( all of the near 4,000 units in Toronto to date are condos ). These are not shabby bunker-style "projects" project, in which I might add here there is more pride of occupancy than you might think.

Byron 905-928-6259 mobile

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By scrap (anonymous) | Posted March 29, 2014 at 22:03:49

So cinic, you seem to have a distorted view of things. Of course it is the fault of those that live in extreme poverty, no onus on the landlords, in your view there. You are part of the problem there buddy, you have listened to many lies to have a clear view of things. How do we shut downn uninformed voices like yours, so that the masses can hear the truth??????

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