Connaught

Making Downtown a Ghetto Won't Attract 'All Kinds of People'

By Jason Leach
Published September 10, 2009

This is just brutal:

The city is recommending the historic Royal Connaught be redeveloped for affordable housing.

The hotel's owners are seeking more than $18 million in government assistance for the $27-million mixed-use project that would feature 100 units with rents 20 per cent below market value, another 106 market-rate units and 20,000 square feet of commercial space.

We're going to locate still more poor people downtown as a way of "revitalizing" it? Do any of these guys know the term ghettoization?

Listen to Tony Battaglia, spokesperson for the Grand Connaught Development Group: "Downtown cores are made for all kinds of people." What a joke. If he really believes that he should be developing this project into condos so we really can get "all kinds of people" living downtown.

He just wants to take government money and dump more poor folks downtown to keep the core in its less than stellar state. The last thing government money should be used for is a massive project that will inject a huge group of more poor people downtown.

Check out the retail spaces in the Spallacci building: brutal. That's how the Connaught will probably end up looking.

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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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 10, 2009 at 11:06:33

Sharpen your pencils, kiddies. Write the Spec, your councillor, and your MPP. Council still has to vote on this, and the ultimate decision is in the hands of the Province. They are already trying to spin opponents of this as NIMBY's who hate the elderly and disabled and/or the working poor (which is it, Tony?), by cynically employing the language of inclusiveness.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted September 10, 2009 at 11:20:04

Living downtown is a privilege, not something to be handed out to those who can't afford to house themselves. I fully support more affordable housing, but not in the city core.

I understand that I have to live a certain distance away from the city core and its convenience because I only pull in X dollars and have to find a corresponding level and location of housing.

As a worker, it really irritates me that others would just be handed this privilege when I've been working for it.

From an economic perspective, it doesn't make any sense to locate people who aren't working in skilled jobs or spending... conveniently near SKILLED WORKPLACES and RETAIL -- and it does nothing to remind people that location near these amenities is a privilege and one to be paid for accordingly.

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By Dave Kuruc (anonymous) | Posted September 10, 2009 at 11:42:04

If this happens - THEY will truly get what they want - which is a downtown that will NEVER attract others to live, work or visit here. DEAD. This can't happen...

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By g. (anonymous) | Posted September 10, 2009 at 12:27:55

sorry guys, i think you are totally missing the point of all this. and falling into an impossible argument in the process. the downtown desperately needs more decent affordable housing. desperately.

it also desperately needs more middle income and high income housing.

the core needs two or three times as many people of all types if it is going to survive.

i understand why you want to argue that it does not need more low income housing but what it really needs is a proportionately lower level of low income housing. objecting to low income housing just looks bad all around, and they know it.

but all that is besides the point. this issue needs to be objected to on the simple grounds that turning the connaught into just another apartment building is not in the city's longer term best interest. take the money and build another tower in one of the dozens of parking lots around it. that is in the best interest of the city. unfortunately, if the two issues are conflated, it is a lost battle from the start.

leave the old buildings alone till someone is able to fix them properly. the time will come. in the mean time, pretty much any new relatively dense residential construction on vacant land should be welcomed with open arms.

p.s. nice satire meredith

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted September 10, 2009 at 12:31:13

Meredith - My take on effective neighbourhood development is that jobs and services should be available in all neighbourhoods, along with a good mix of different choices of houses. We should not condemn low income folks to areas without accessible jobs and services.

What we need to create are neighbourhoods which comprise all walks of life in a good balance. What is clearly happening downtown is that one income group is taking precendence over others. Just because the neighbourhood is currently struggling to attract other income brackets is no reason to allow it to become ghettoized.

I'm sure property owners are frustrated with the lack of high dollar interest in their properties, but that doesn't mean council has to accept this deal. It will cost the city more in the long run. Better to ask property owners to sit tight and let council concentrate on upgrading the neighbourhood services and livability so that different income bracket folks will come knocking.

I agree that downtown is a 'different' neighbourhood - it does have prime access to lots of services and jobs. But it also has over 200 social services, a factor which is depressing property values and leading to proposals like the one we're discussing.

If you build a new golf course behind your street and permit only 10 room mansion construction - you'll get the neighbours you deserve. Same goes for the downtown. This is a critical vote for Hamilton - what kind of downtown neighbourhood does it want?

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted September 10, 2009 at 13:27:57

I suppose it's easy to get muddled on this format, one of the things about online discussion I dislike. I also have a limited time to write and edit this comment, so it won't be that great either.

I do think, perhaps unpopularly, a city core that does cost more money to live in is a good thing. I also fully accept the reality that means yep, I probably won't be able to live there either. That's OK with me.

Because that's a price I'm willing to pay to have an attractive, economically viable city centre - that people enjoy coming to, that's a destination for out of towners, that sets the image for the entire city and that doesn't make people go "ugh, Hamilton." One where there's competition for housing and we have a decent real estate market with appreciating property values.

Having true mixed-income development as a part of that would be nice, but it's not going to happen with the current proposal. I think that has to be secondary to making it an attractive and viable place for people of middle and higher income levels to spend their time and even live - there's many ways to work in smaller percentages of low-income housing to future projects.

I'm not saying to ghettoize people elsewhere away from what they need, but the necessary services and amenities can be found elsewhere and we can make those neighbourhoods better.

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By Jon Dalton (anonymous) | Posted September 10, 2009 at 13:47:26

Supporters of this project should spend a friday night outside the complex at Hess and Jackson and then decide if this is what they want to bring (more of) into to the core. Subsidized housing complexes sound like a wonderful idea until you see them in real life.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 10, 2009 at 14:29:56

I'm not opposed to subsidized housing complexes per se. I'm opposed to more of them downtown. Go across the lower city from the 403 to Centennial and there is more affordable housing than probably many places in the entire province. Do we really need to turn it into a 'ghetto'??

Options for Homes has done some nice projects in Toronto. Make no mistake. Whatever garbage is built by this consortium will not be remotely close to Options for Homes. The retail/commercial component will just be a poorly done mess of units that aren't very functional (ie - Spallacci on King East, Gore Building etc....)

I realize the back room reigns supreme in Hamilton, but how this can be allowed to happen is mind boggling.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted September 10, 2009 at 15:14:59


Jason, I agree with you 100%.

Many of you have probably read my comments on the posting titled "City recommends Connaught for affordable housing program" so there is no need to repeat them here.

I have already emailed the mayor and council expressing my disgust at this development. I urge all of you who are against this proposal to please do the same.

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By scoop (anonymous) | Posted September 10, 2009 at 16:37:47

I hear that the developer is in talks with the city to move a handful of social service offices into the commercial ground floor, and that the other bonus with the funds he's getting is that he's guaranteed a profit margin by the City. So if the building sucks or never fills up - the developer still gets a healthy pay check....might bit painful when ya figure it's being built with Federal funds, leveraged by a municipal development grant, and being tenanted by Provincial services offices. All of the 'good will' associated with providing affordable housing seems lost when it making one developer a very happy man.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted September 10, 2009 at 16:53:53

Why is this developer getting access to tax payer dollars? Why can't he raise the money himself, from his rich friends?

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By JonC (registered) | Posted September 10, 2009 at 17:02:40

Downtown is already one of the cheapest places in Hamilton to live (which is the opposite of how a city should be developed), so I don't see why a private developer needs 18M to further reduce the cost of renting downtown. Before I bought a home, I was renting a two bedroom steps away from the GO station, for under $700/m, unsubsidized, and there were cheaper options available. 18M could build a lot of housing anywhere in the city. So a private corporation is looking for a handout of 180k, per unit, for low income housing. That is insane. Just buy homes outright and rent them, or rent to own. Whatever. 18 million. give me a break.

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By Mahesh P. Butani / http://www.metroHam (anonymous) | Posted September 10, 2009 at 19:07:16

Below is an example of how "affordable" can be handled - if the common language spoken in Hamilton was "Design Centric" instead of being "Issues Centric".

www.woodwardsdistrict.com/

This is the cutting edge of downtown re-development, this is 'vision' --- and not the financially untenable, seductive images of morphing 'mega-lomaniac' towers, photoshoped together in a desperate bid to regain lost social stature - clueless of market realities or the damage that such self-indulgence does to communities that are just trying to regain their footing.
It is such shenanigans that slows the genuine progress of our downtown, obfuscate truths, and polarize our community.



More details on the Woodward District Project at:
www.archrecord.construction.com/news/daily/archives/071227vancouver.asp

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 10, 2009 at 21:17:20

scoop, if your info is correct, and I have no reason to believe it isn't based on what I've seen from this 'development' consortium in the past, we ALL need to start emailing the heck out of council, the province and the Spec. This will become Hamilton's Regent Park if the grand old lady is allowed to turn into a mega-social services centre.

Don't forget to mention in your writings that social housing on King Street alone is being built or just completed at Spallacci, the Gore Building, Queen/King street at the All Saints church and a massive 4 building complex at King and Ray. Within about a 10 minute walk there is a ton of social housing, and now they want to add this???

In the past I've heard councilors and local civic leaders talk about how downtown will never go back to it's glory days. I always aks "why not?" Portland, Boston, Toronto, Vancouver, Seattle etc....all have vibrant downtowns that are the CENTRE of those cities shopping and retail markets. We've got so called leaders in Hamilton who have thrown in the towel by making statements like that. With decisions like this one, you can be guaranteed that downtown will never regain it's rightful place in Hamilton. But it's not because urbanism is out of style or can't be revived. It's solely because of garbage decisions like this meant to do one thing and one thing only - fatten the pockets of the rich with our tax money. Everyone involved in having this project approved ought to be ashamed of themselves and do us all a favour and leave town. Enough is enough.

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By realitycheck (anonymous) | Posted September 10, 2009 at 22:13:54

It may be in order to tone down the rhetoric. No one posting here has seen the p roposal for the former Connaught. the only description we have to go by is a couple paragraphs in an motion to apply for funding for six projects that would contain subsidized housing in Hamilton.

What we do know is that the Connaught proposal is not to turn it into a multi-storey ghetto. Of the 206 rental units proposed for the building, only half will be subsidized housing. And by subsidized, we are talking rates at 80% of the market value - certainly not the welfare flophouse rates some are trying to portray here. The other half will be market-value rental units. There is also an allotment of 20,000 suare feet of commercial space, presumably some main floor retail and a couple floors office space. There is also some allowance to introduce a small scale hotel to the site when market conditions support that use. In short, this is really a high density multi-purpose infill proposal, exactly what is being called for in the core.

Whether or not a multi-purpose redevelopment of the Connaught is appropriate for this building specifically is a reasonable debate. However, the hysterical cries of ghettoization a over the top and unwarranted. I suspect that most of this opposition is brought on by who is making the proposal and not necessarily the contents of the proposal itself.

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By complexeconomy (anonymous) | Posted September 10, 2009 at 22:17:45

i thought the whole point of redevelopment of the core was to help price those undesirable people out into cities like brantford, oshawa and st catherines...or atleast keep them out in Riverdale.

Housing's a privilege, not a right.

geez.





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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted September 10, 2009 at 23:55:36

How about we get the downtown fixed up and made into an

"attractive, economically viable city centre - that people enjoy coming to, that's a destination for out of towners, that sets the image for the entire city and that doesn't make people go "ugh, Hamilton." One where there's competition for housing and we have a decent real estate market with appreciating property values,"

as Meredith has said above-- before we decide that it's a good place to house people on a fixed income. Why not increase the amount of affordable housing somewhere where it's actually safe for children to play outside, for example.

To develop the Connaught this way is pretty much saying to people on a fixed income that our crumbling downtown is where they belong...

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted September 11, 2009 at 03:31:29

Realitycheck: Yes, those single people on welfare could not afford to live in this supposed re-development, they do not get enough money to live there. With trying to exist on only $572.00 per month, there is not many places where they can live. This is the problem, when the amounts received do not actually represent liveable amounts to live on in the real world.

Housing's a privilege, not a right.

This pretty much sums up how some people think in this city, sad isn't it. It really shows what their mindset really is.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted September 11, 2009 at 04:25:13

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QaIQBYbAp...

Is this what some of you call affordable housing?

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 11, 2009 at 09:18:12

Mahesh Butani wrote:

It is such shenanigans that slows the genuine progress of our downtown, obfuscate truths, and polarize our community.

I have to take issue with your thinly-veiled criticism of Harry Stinson. Yes, his iconic tower proposal was over the top, and yes, the Woodward District is a model of neighbourhood renewal, but it is most definitely not Stinson who has obfuscated, polarized, and slowed the progress of our downtown. That honour falls to the likes of Battaglia and his un-named fellow 'investors', LIUNA, and their fellow welfare queens who allow their properties to deteriorate until they see their chance to make a profit on the public purse.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 11, 2009 at 11:14:16

reality check, I have no problem with who is proposing the project. my issue is 100% with the building. If they were restoring the hotel to a hotel with a new 200 unit apartment building in the parking lot behind it I would have no problem with it. Considering the lack of hotel space in this city, I can't support turning our grandest hotel into affordable housing. It is the eastern anchor for Gore Park. I love Gore Park, but I always hear from locals how it's full of 'riff-raff' and poor folks. Is this really how we want to anchor the Gore??

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted September 11, 2009 at 11:51:43

This probably won't garner positive reactions either, but this is what I sent the mayor and councillors. It's a bit redundant, but again, what I could do in half an hour this morning.

"Hello,

I am e-mailing to request that the city does not approve the plan for the Connaught to be converted into a mixed-use building with half affordable housing. I hope Hamilton finds and retains a bigger vision for our downtown and the first impressions of our city. Please understand the impact this project in a landmark, historic property in a prime location like this will have on the downtown. It will not be positive.

Also, please understand where I come from: Combined, my income and my husband's income is still below the poverty line. We left good jobs in another city. Moving here a few years ago and facing the job market here, we both had to return to school, although I found part-time work in my field. We pay our bills on time, but we're not people with high disposable income.

And if downtown is a place I can still afford to live, then our downtown is in trouble. The downtown core should be expensive. It should be a destination. There should be competition to live there - because it's the first impression of our city to everyone who comes here. There's already many other affordable housing projects in downtown and surrounding downtown.

I have big issues with government assistance providing $18 million in funding for a $27 million project where only half of it will be at market rent. I have big issues with any development of the Connaught taking priority over quality development. The current recession is no excuse for letting a grand property like this be cut up into anything that can be figured out. It's been empty a long time, sure - but for a property of this location and scale, redevelopment can wait until a good proposal comes along and the economy allows funding of it.

In many places in this city, I'd take any action over waiting for perfection. The King/Bay Cottage Life project is a great example of that - sure, it's not perfect, but it's a big improvement on before! But for the Connaught, I'd wait further for a better proposal. Especially for this space not to be used for hotel purposes -- when we consistently as a city lose out on conventions due to a lack of hotel space -- makes no sense (the proposed/possible/maybe future use of it as a hotel doesn't impress me).

This project is incredibly shortsighted and does very little to contribute to the core as a whole. This is not forward-thinking nor does it reflect the true diversity needed downtown. There is already a big concentration of low-income housing in the core and more is proposed elsewhere in the core! I walk by several subsidized/affordable places on my way to work. Yes, we need more affordable housing --- but the bigger issue is that we need to diversify where that affordable housing is located, and attract different demographics to the core of our city. I live in Ward 2 just outside the downtown boundary, and I work in Ward 1 near King/Locke. If we had a vibrant, economically viable core, I wouldn't be able to afford to live as near to downtown as I do - and I'm quite fine with that.

That's a price I'm willing to pay to have an attractive, pace-setting, high-value city centre - that people enjoy coming to, that's a destination for out-of-towners, that sets the image for the entire city and that doesn't make people go "ugh, Hamilton." One where there's competition for housing and we have a decent real estate market with appreciating property values. And one where the concentration of skilled jobs and retail is matched by the amount of skilled workers and people with disposable income who live there.

Having true mixed-income development as a part of that would be nice, but it's not going to happen with the current proposal. We must focus on having money-making properties and setting the bar higher for what will be allowed, making our downtown an attractive and viable place for people of middle and higher income levels to spend their time and even live - there's many ways to work in smaller percentages of low-income housing to future projects and in a variety of neighbourhoods. It's much better to locate seniors near neighbourhoods with significant greenspace, community centres, transit, and parks. Many of the working poor need to be near schools for their kids..

Again, understand my own income is below the poverty line. Please also understand that I am also friends with several people who desperately need subsidized housing. I know a deaf senior gentleman whose neighbours constantly leave the door open in an unsafe neighbourhood. I know a working senior who lives in a tiny bedroom of a friend's house. I know single mothers who desperately want to stay in school and go to college. I'm not unfamiliar with the needs, nor do I deny that more affordable housing throughout the city would be a good thing.

But taking ANY redevelopment of a historic building in a prime location just because it's been empty for so long is a terrible idea, especially when they plan to locate more social services in the building and contribute to the unused retail space that will compound these problems.

Besides driving by on the QEW, our core is the first impression of our whole city once you get here. When people visit for an event, a concert, a hockey game, a family reunion and drive downtown, they've got their picture of Hamilton. And for years, visitors - whether businesses, conventions, students, anyone else - has seen a core that does not reflect success, wealth, or the great resources, history, and strength this city possesses. I constantly redirect out-of-town visitors to the areas that are attractive, have destinations, have beauty, have vibrancy-- but the primacy effect from the core is debilitating, and first impressions often cloud their entire experience of this city. You also see this effect with university and college students who travel through the core daily - it's an unfriendly place that reflects poverty, and when people are getting an education focused on a job, they want to distance themselves from a poor environment.

Yes, we need to make affordable housing possible - but we also need to think of the good of the city as a whole. This does not improve things in the long-term - and if the government can fund 2/3 of the project already, there are far better uses than subsidized housing, and perhaps we need to rethink what we allow to be built because it's better than "nothing." This isn't NIMBY-ism, this is reflecting what it means to have high standards, to wait for quality proposals, and to reflect true diversity downtown -- we need higher and middle income people in our downtown to balance out the concentration of lower income people like me. That's true diversity and truly doing what's best for Hamilton.

Please, set the bar higher and have a bigger vision."

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted September 11, 2009 at 12:27:06

@Meredith

That was an excellant article! I am glad you sent it to all councillors. I too sent an email to all of them requesting that they reconsider this. I had raised many of the same points as you, but not quite as eloquent as you did.

I urge all of you on this site to please do as Meredith and I did and email the mayor and all councillors to stop this nonsense before it is too late!!!

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted September 11, 2009 at 13:18:56

someone on RTH or SSP gave me this list a while ago. I'll re-post to make it easy:

mayorfred@hamilton.ca, bmchattie@hamilton.ca, bbratina@hamilton.ca, bmorelli@hamilton.ca, smerulla@hamilton.ca, ccollins@hamilton.ca, tjackson@hamilton.ca, sduvall@hamilton.ca, twhitehead@hamilton.ca, bclark@hamilton.ca, mpearson@hamilton.ca, dmitchell@hamilton.ca, lferguson@hamilton.ca, rpowers@hamilton.ca, rpasuta@hamilton.ca, mmccarthy@hamilton.ca

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By Mahesh P. Butani / http://www.metroHam (anonymous) | Posted September 11, 2009 at 13:46:54

Hello Highwater,

My point was not a thinly-veiled criticism of Harry in particular. If anything it was a frontal assault in broad daylight -- on the approach to re-development that he has come to represent.

Hamilton has used Harry, as much as Harry has used Hamilton to push growth by any means necessary. That is not to say he is a bad individual or Hamilton is bad city.

Rhetoric and grand-standing is the only legacy of this approach. The result is either million dollar condos -or- its polar opposite the ill-defined affordable housing.

The victim is downtown once again, and the hundreds of individual property developers and entrepreneurs and owners - the real heroes of the core, who built the foundation incrementally over the last ten years - to enable Harry to undertake the much celebrated grand walks around downtown.

Did these walks result in him understanding the development cycle of the core or location specific solutions to jump start our economy? No. They resulted in a photoshoped caricature of a mega-city tower vainly transplanted in defiance of economic realities onto a small block of downtown. We clapped and cheered and popped champagne bottles.

We are doing the same thing once again. We are jeering and jabbing and popping email campaigns. A familiar approach to re-development is being photoshoped on us, just that instead of the unsustainable condos, we are being flashed unsustainable affordable housing. What is the difference here from the earlier version? None.

If John Mokrycke, Architect - had by divine intervention made his fateful call to David Butterfield* in BC, instead of Harry -- what kind of development would we have seen on the Connaught site? What kind of progress would we have made in the last two years in the core on the remaining vacant lots?

This is not a criticism of anyone -but approaches- we take as a community. It is a plea to make the right calls and right connections. As we only have one opportunity to do it right.

Done wrong, the kind of discourse you witness here is the outcome.


----------------
* 'The Trust for Sustainable Development' is a not-for-profit corporation that identifies projects with the potential to implement sustainable strategies and then invests in pre-development project preparation (often valued at more than one million dollars USD) for large-scale developments. The Trust researches, identifies and finances exciting, sustainable project ideas to bring them to fruition. As the project nears start-up, the Trust creates a for-profit company to develop the community (or building). The for-profit company acts as Master Developer and oversees permitting, design and sale of building lots. It is this business model that ensures the sustainable strategies planned for will, in fact, be implemented in the physical development.
-----------------

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted September 11, 2009 at 14:28:38

Great e-mail Meredith. Just to clarify my take on this: Even though it's a 'mixed' condo development proposal I think it's horrible. You can't, of course, force the owners to sit and wait for the hotel to be viable, but neither should the government be encouraging an excessive concentration of low income services and housing in one spot.

When I look around Sherbourne and Queen all the way up to Dundas (in Toronto) I despair. The damage done by constructing massive shelters and allowing all the corresponding social services to pool in the same area is massive. Quite simply it would take an enormous and impractical infill of higher end housing to off-set the current ghetto effect. If this gets approved in Hamilton it could set back the downtown recovery significantly. There's no pretty way to paint the picture - downtown doesn't need more poor people. It's as simple as that. We should also look at this from the vantage point of 'poor people' - it does low income folks no good to live in such areas. Healthy mixed neighbourhoods benefit everyone. Ghettos hurt everybody. Nobody will win with this proposal.

Cheers

Ben

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted September 11, 2009 at 14:48:59

Thre is nothing stopping the middle or high income folks from coming downtown. There are lots of galleries, restaurants, bars, music events and so on.

"it's an unfriendly place that reflects poverty, and when people are getting an education focused on a job, they want to distance themselves from a poor environment."

Statements like this, truly reflect what is wrong with people attitudes. This statement creates more fear, which is what we do not want.

Anyways, why is there no scrutiny on social services that do not help people to lift themselves out of poverty. The problem is that the voices of those that struggle need to be heard, many who work in this industry treat those using the services like they are dirt. Of but they are middle class people right, who are educated!

The cycle continues.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 11, 2009 at 16:54:40

great letter Meredith. Yes we all need to send letters. I know it's a touchy subject and as we saw in todays Spec the local old boys club will do their best to paint you and I as discriminatory or with no compassion for the poor.
Send your letters with honesty and valid points. Don't let the hot air club make you second guess your love and passion for our city. They are content to ruin it as long as their pockets continue to bulge.

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By a (anonymous) | Posted September 11, 2009 at 18:36:53

just sent to council. i give up.

Hello,

"Mayor Fred Eisenberger said the plan achieves the city's goal of bringing more people to the core." - Hamilton Spectator

With all due respect, this is an incredibly shortsighted "goal". I suppose it makes no difference who these people are. Having spent many childhood years in subsidized housing, I certainly do not oppose the development of affordable housing. However, I have seen the REALITIES of such developments, and as this city seems intent on locating seemingly every social service agency, halfway house, and affordable housing development in the city's core (and on King Street, of all places!), it can be certain that this project, and ones like it, will continue to have no significant or positive impact on the core's revitalization efforts. In fact, it will further fuel the perception of investors, visitors, and, perhaps most sadly, Hamiltonians, that the core is nothing more than a ghetto. YES, you ARE creating a ghetto (an unpopular and "insensitive" word, but it is reality). The city's goal should not be to just increase population in the core, but to encourage diversification (ie. attracting middle income citizens with disposable incomes).

"Downtown cores are made for all kinds of people." - Tony Battaglia, Hamilton Spectator

According to this logic, should there not be a concentrated effort to develop housing for the middle class (and upper) in the downtown core? Is Mr. Battaglia under the false impression that the core has been, up until this point in time, reserved for elitists and the bourgeoisie? A stroll through the core will reveal that there is only "one type of people" inhabiting the area, unfortunately. This project, and ones like it, do nothing but further intensify the concentration of "one type of people" in the core. If diversification is the key to a healthy urban environment, why are YOU allowing such developments to continue in such a vital and critical neighbourhood of our city. I would argue that NO neighbourhood in our city deserves this concentration of such developments. Again, if diversification is the goal, and it should be, this project is backwards. I could go on and on about the faults of this project, along with others, but I won't. This is not NIMBYism, it is common sense.

I have no idea if this will ever be read, and I, in no way, am under the illusion that it will influence any of you. I understand, through observation, that an ordinary citizen of this city cannot have a voice of any significant kind in these matters. I wrote this because I love this city, and I defend it vigorously (usually from other Hamiltonians). I chose to stay in Hamilton upon university graduation (unlike many others), and I am a teacher in the HWDSB. I even moved downtown. However, I see no future in this city. It is a city that lacks common sense in its decision making, and it is a city that, time after time, shoots itself in the foot. It is a city that ignores the fundamentals of effective urban planning at a time when so many progressive cities are setting fabulous examples. It is a city that is dying, and it is too hard to stick around to watch. Thank you.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted September 11, 2009 at 18:58:45

Grassroots, I don't think you understand the psychological barriers that stop middle and higher income peopple coming downtown. I don't think you understand either that it better benefits people to get affordable housing in a variety of neighbouhoods, mixed in with people of higher income levels.

The reality is, I come from a single-income family with six kids who lived in rental housing until I was a teenager.(my father was a carpenter, later a truck driver).

I've lived in poverty the majority of my life. And yes, I've been fortunate to have good examples and a good work ethic and to pay entirely for my own education, and not to be handicapped by having a kid young or addiction issues or any of the myriad things that kept my peers back. But if the environment you're in only contains those things, it's that much harder to get out of poverty when all you see is people perpetuating negative patterns.

Want to hang out in the Keith neighbourhood with me some day?

But understand where I come from, and believe me when I say it doesn't help poor people to keep the city as a negative environment populated only by other poor people like them.

Especially if you come from a family like mine that tried hard to keep good influences around their kids, they're the ones who most desperately need affordable housing in neighbourhoods with mixed income levels and a variety of opportunties available.

We need a healthy mix of people in different areas, and since downtown is already predominantly poor people, we need to shift the balance in the core, not ghettoize it further just to create more affordable housing at the expense of creating positive environements

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 11, 2009 at 19:16:29

a, fabulous letter. well done.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted September 11, 2009 at 19:43:18

good post, a. glad you sent it in to council.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted September 11, 2009 at 22:18:15

Meredith: Well I am glad that you have moved forward in your life. There are no psychological barriers only attitudes. People are snobs, they see themselves as being better because they have money but that is not always true. How many in the upper echelons of society are sociopaths, meaning, they have no conscience. It is a mental illness.

Face facts honey, this is a blue collar town, down home people.

Look I honestly do not think that, they, these developers should be allowed tax payers dollars, these people are the elites of our society and they have been the voice behind the scenes which have thrown many of our fellow citizen into dire poverty. If these same people blabbing in the spec do not come downtown and mix with the people, well, that says it all. They are hypocrits.

The focus should be on why so many are struggling, welfare amounts are not enough to live on, if you get sick it takes around three years, sometimes longer just to get on disability if you are lucky. There is a report put out by the Ombudsmen's office "Losing the Waiting Game", it clearly defines what people go through trying to gain access to ODSP. These workers have no medical background. In the meantime as a single person you are left to find shelter, food, clothes, personal items on $572.00 per month. The cut off letters come without warning, throwing people who are already stressed into a tailspin. Never mind the fact of having to go to a foodbank to get crappy food, that is not nutricious at all, you get food for three days but what about the rest of the month. Many of the foodbanks are now using MEANS testing and people are being denied access. Foodbanks are not regulated, people get rotten, expired food, no labels, so if you have food allergies, well you are out of luck, they discriminate, people have to stand outside in inclement weather for hours, there is no tranportation so many who are disabled have trouble getting food. If you ask me, some of these social agencies need to be investigated to their practices.

How about the fact the many are pushed into low wage job, temp work, they have no protection of labour rights, it is an continual cycle of despair.

In fact at a poverty and health forum, a health provider made the statement the Hamilton has an unusally high amount of "BAD SOCIAL WORKERS". It is the system that is bad and that is what needs to change.

If people had living wages, liveable amounts of social assistance, better job protection, like those who have union contracts, to grievance and arbritration process, access to legal aid for employment issues. If I belonged to a union I would not be sitting here unemployed because I worked for an abusive person who was hitting their own family member the day before I was terminated for standing up for myself.

Like I said before, they are now clawing back the Ontario Child Benefits off both welfare and ODSP cheques, meanwhile spinning it in the news that they are better off.

But then those who are in charge of the bureaucracy of the city social services have no answers and they would not stand up and speak out against the system, they have no morals or ethics, it is only about their jobs, their $200,000 salaries, benefits, pensions, their high income lifestyles.

where are all the whistleblowers?

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By JonC (registered) | Posted September 12, 2009 at 08:38:28

Grassroots, for your benefit, your rants are getting more tangential than A Smith's.

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2009 at 11:13:09

Grassroots - this discussion is about the impact of more affordable housing downtown. It's not a forum on poverty. If you want to generate a discussion on social assistance and the challenges of poverty - write an article! I'm sure Ryan would be happy to publish it.

Meredith mentioned her own experiences growing up 'poor'. She talked about the importance of being exposed to positive influences. This works both ways. My family is double income. We have 4 kids and live in downtown Toronto. We are not rich - I would say we are firmly middle class. But we have chosen not to live in the Beaches or High Park, but in a TRUE mixed neighbourhood - St Lawrence Market (http://www.mapquest.com/maps?city=Toronto&state=ON&address=20+GEORGE+STREET&zipcode=M5A). Our 4 bedroom townhouse shares the street with co-op apts and smaller family homes. 10 storey co-op apt blocks line the esplanade, next to a high end condo. Yuppie lofts are sprouting up in the surrounding areas.

When we moved in a neighbour's front window was smashed by a group of local youths (I chased them down and caught one!). My wife found a homeless guy unconcious in our laneway. The neighbourhood has it's challenges but it reflects real life.

Single parent families predominate. None of my kids friends parents are together, many have brothers and sisters who live in different houses with different Mums or Dads. My daughters boyfriend has moved house several times this year, as his Mum changed boyfriends. Her best friend's Dad is a drug dealer, her Mum an alcoholic. Yet they are not necessarily surrounded by these situations. These kids grow up with folks from other walks of life. When they talk to my kids for instance, they talk about going to University or getting their homework in on time. When they talk to my wife she berates them for having underage sex. Sometimes they come to our house because they've been locked out, or kicked out of their own homes.

My son's friend's Dad works at the local supermarket. He talks about becoming a chef - I encourage him.

When the young kids hang out on the esplanade they share the street with office types coming home from work, nuclear families pushing 3 wheel strollers, construction workers, people of all types.

But this influence works both ways. I am proud for my kids to mingle with their peers. Many of their friends are facing their challenges with maturity and courage. Some are not, but their struggles become our struggles are we learn from it together.

St Lawrence Market is regarded as a successful mixed neighbourhood by urban planners everywhere. I often see groups of urban planning students taking tours. It is a planned neighbourhood - literally drawn up on a blank peice of paper and cobbled together (the area used to be heavy industry - some of these buildings have been refurbished into condo/retail units). It was heavily influenced by the forward thinking ex-Toronto mayor David Crombie. It is sprinkled with historic treasures like the Market, the Distillery (located 2 mins to the east, near Pariament) and a couple of theatres. The Esplanade is a wide single lane thoroughfare with several parks.

Healthy mixed neighbourhoods don't happen by accident. I have often wondered how my hood would work if they had built just one more co-op, or if they lowered the rates 10%. It's a fine balance.

Unfortunately it's a balance and a concept that Hamilton's councilors do not seem to appreciate. If they want to come here and see it for themselves I will happily give them a tour. Same goes for anyone else at RTH!

I'm proud of my neighbourhood, as should we all be.

Cheers

Ben

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By Schoobabe (anonymous) | Posted September 12, 2009 at 12:20:51

This is a sad moment for Raisethehammer. I am truly disappointed to say this, but the opinions expressed in this blog ARE nimbyism at it's most vile. Meredith's comments in particular raise the spectre of the poor as morally inferior, by definition unworthy of living where they might enjoy the "priviledges" deserved only by the wealthy. Instead the poor should be relegated to other areas where services are less concentrated, such as townhouse surveys on the east mountain, perhaps.

This picks up a theme that has long been trumped by the downtown business association, and I think explains at least in part their failure to redevelop the city centre thus far, that the people who now inhabit and congregate there must first be removed to attract middle-class shoppers. It is the essence of nimbyism that where people are to be removed to is never specifically discussed, the polite equivalent of telling them to "fuck off and die." In other political constituencies the poor can be "disappeared." In Hamilton they go the first step, publicly dehumanizing the poor as "undesireables." This is where the argument that there are already too many of Hamilton's poor concentrated in the downtown fails. More services should be provided throughout the city, but I doubt that pushing or keeping the poor out of the downtown will accomplish that.

The idea that the reduced economic resources of the poor means they represent the "wrong sort" of development ignores how economies develop. To succeed, businesses must work with the resources at hand, not dream of attracting some idealized, wealthy clientelle in the sky. Would there be a theatre district on King St. West in Toronto if Ed Mirvish had not begun with the equivalent of a dollar store at Bathurst and College, where he used his showmanship to makee shopping there seem like fun? Would The Royal Alex have been revivied if he hadn't initially opened relatively cheap restaurants nearby to put the expand the theatre-going experience within the reach of lower-middle income people? Would the artsy redevelopment of Mirvish Village exist without Honest Eds on the corner?

Restoring the Cannot Hotel for mixed-income housing is not a misstep in downtown development. Those who think so should walk from Toronto's Union Station, or the GO bus station next door, along The Esplanade to the finally restored industrial Distillery District. En route are restaurants and hotels backing one of Toronto's entertainment and theatre districts, the historic St. Lawrence Market, and a narrow band of parkland usually flush with people who live in surrounding apartment buildings, including the mixed-income St. George development, and the no-frills "co-op to condo" apartment that is the model for the project being considered for the All Saints site in Hamilton, and disparaged in one of the responses above.

Mixed-income housing is a proven route to neighbourhood rejuvination. Building a hotel is much riskier, dependent on sorting out "chicken and egg" tourism and convention industry priorities that pit the needs for more expensive attractions that will draw hotel business, against the concurrent need for existing hotel space. Each needs the other to be in place to make their own project viable and a derelict, vacant city-block-big building in the centre of the potential development area is itself a deterrent to tourism. While we're waiting for tourism to build, the Cannot can become a can do project, housing more people in the city centre, the reconstruction itself a municipal economic boon. Are when it looks like the locals are having too much fun to ignore, the tourists will follow.

When the rich come to live in Mr. Stinson's saphire tower, or some other equivalent, as they surely someday will, I've no doubt they'll retain the power to maintain sufficient "privileges" against their poor neighbours in order to satisfy Meredith.

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By JonC (registered) | Posted September 12, 2009 at 12:35:00

18 million tax dollars to build 100 subsidized units (still charge 80% of market rents), is easily the stupidest idea I've ever heard of, no matter where they build.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2009 at 16:17:31

Schoobabe, please actually read what I wrote before accusing it, and me, of NIMBYism.

As mentioned, I grew up poor. I am still living below the poverty line. I know many people who are poor with great talents and actively contributing to society.

No, being rich isn't virtuous, but neither is being poor virtuous in itself.Different types of character strengths and weaknesses tend to accompany different demographics, but you'll find addiction problems, abuse, broken families, and laziness in every demographic - wealth just tends to sweep things other the rug better, but they're still there.

It doesn't change the underlying economic reality: we need ALL types of people in Hamilton. We need people with more skills and more income and spending power than I have in this city, not JUST poor people LIKE ME.

The street I live on works well because we have everyone from drug dealers (a few doors down) to a doctor (my next door neighbour) to immigrant families (across the street) to single parents (downstairs in my building) to young professionals (next door on the other side) to students (a few doors down) to seniors (down the street) on it. More than one group. If the street was all doctors or all students or all single parents or young professionals, it would be a much less successful and less pleasant place to live.

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By Apropos (anonymous) | Posted September 12, 2009 at 16:27:21

Surely the point isn't low income housing downtown versus NO low income housing downtown. The point is one of degree. How much low income housing do you want in the core? There are many city owned projects already there to create the 'mix' people are talking about. To add the Connaught to the mix is really to confuse what downtown re-birth should be all about. It shouldn't be done because the balance is tilting totally in favour of one type of housing and that isn't mixed-use in my eyes. As for the vulgarities spewed by the downtown co-ordinator who works for the city? I wonder where he lives?

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 12, 2009 at 16:57:02

schoobabe, nobody is suggesting that anyone be removed from downtown. We're only advocating for a mixed-use downtown. My body of work on RTH is pretty clear - I loathe places like Bloor/Yorkville and other high price ghettos. I would love downtown Hamilton to have the mix of people as described by Rusty in the St Lawrence Market area in TO. But in case you hadn't noticed, all the new residential developments proposed downtown right now are geared towards the same group of people - social housing recipients. The neighbourhood where the Connaught sits is one of the poorest in Canada. It's no east Hastings, thank goodness, but we need to start developing a better mix and as everyone knows, historic buildings like LIster, Connaught, Pigott etc.... are able to command higher rents if converted to residential due to their history, cache , whatever.

As I said in my original post last week, this project doesn't belong in the Connaught. why don't they bring a smaller hotel with some condos into the Connaught and build a new tower next door with this rental housing plan. I would be absolutely fine with that. Oh I forgot, the government doesn't doll out millions for hotel rooms and condos. And that brings me to the next part of this that is so frustrating. We've been saying it for years on RTH and others in the city have been calling out our so called private developers who won't do anything without 'accidentally' demolishing beautiful old buildings and using tens of millions of taxpayer dollars.

The Lister project is a complete joke. We are emptying out the Right House to move those departments into Lister. So, a landlord who has done a marvelous job at maintaining their building and keeping it occupied downtown for decades is having it's tenants moved out so that the local old-boys club can fill their pockets. It's wrong on all levels.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2009 at 16:58:24

"Especially if you come from a family like mine that tried hard to keep good influences around their kids, they're the ones who most desperately need affordable housing in neighbourhoods with mixed income levels and a variety of opportunties available." (Meredith)

....whereas council thinks they should be housed across the street from the Adult Bookstore peepshow place, the bingo palace and a Money Mart...

If I was on a waiting list for assisted housing for my family, and was told the next available spot was there, I'd weep.

Grassroots, this is not about Nimbyism. It's just a bad idea.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2009 at 17:03:49

"Would there be a theatre district on King St. West in Toronto if Ed Mirvish had not begun with the equivalent of a dollar store at Bathurst and College, where he used his showmanship to makee shopping there seem like fun? Would The Royal Alex have been revivied if he hadn't initially opened relatively cheap restaurants nearby to put the expand the theatre-going experience within the reach of lower-middle income people? Would the artsy redevelopment of Mirvish Village exist without Honest Eds on the corner? " (Schoobabe)

Any of these kinds of things would be a welcome step in the right direction. Get the downtown more fixed-up and attractive first, before you expect people who have few housing options and few resources to live there.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted September 12, 2009 at 18:35:34

Michelle Martin: I never said this was NIMBYISM, my rant was about people's attitudes, trying to demonize those who struggle.

Don't think for one second that I believe the spin that is coming from those, the elite of our society.

Affordable housing is an issue, poverty is an issue, lack of jobs and the loss of jobs, contribute greatly. I know that the spin they give, the numbers are dated when they say poverty levels have decreased to 18%. I have a report from the SPRC, that clearly shows this reduction they go on about happen a few of years back when they got many seniors access to benefits such as Income Supplement Benefits, many do not know that they could access.

It was back in 2006, they had that big meeting at city council about the Lister block and three years later, there it still sits an empty albratrose.

For the downtown to improve, it must be a grassroots movement, that includes all types of people getting involved and participating. Instead of wishing for big named retailers to come, we should be promoting the small businesses.

Someone made the suggestion of taking those millions and making them accessible to those that struggle as micro-loans. Many people who struggle have good ideas, they just lack the funding.

Instead of promoting the negative, why not promote the positive things such as the library, the market, the galleries, the restaurants, local musical events and so on down the line.

The waste of tax dollars that goes on is horrendous, yet when push come to shove, it is always the poor that are blamed. The rich always look for for themselves, it is up to the rest of us to change that power structure.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2009 at 18:47:05

I know it's a tangent, but I completely agree with Grassroots on the microfinance aspect. More types of microfinance in Hamilton, (as well as international programs of course), would be a great idea!

I'd like to see a corresponding ban on payday loan places and certain other businesses in most neigbhourhods, the government to actually cap interest rates, and much, much better education in our schools about how money works.

Just had to say that, because I truly believe that having a lower-than-average income does not mean you need to have a bad quality of life, and that money can be made to work for you, no matter what your income level. I think I've lived it long enough to have proved it, but I've also seen firsthand how tough it is to get ahead or to get ideas off the ground.

We live in a system where it's very tough to get financing for a lot of things, as well as to get education about how businesses and personal finance work, and to ever get ahead if you're below a certain income - and we need to leverage creativity, passion, knowledge and hard work even when there isn't already startup dollars behind it.

Back to the Connaught now.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2009 at 19:16:27

"It was back in 2006, they had that big meeting at city council about the Lister block and three years later, there it still sits an empty albratross." (grassroots)

Yes, indeed- with you there.

We moved here almost ten years ago, now-- and the Lister Block looks exactly the same as it did then.

Also with you on the micro finance, and with Meredith on the payday loan place bans and education about money/business/personal finance works.

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By Stephen Martin (anonymous) | Posted September 12, 2009 at 21:43:10

Here is the text of a letter which I just emailed to Andrea Horwath on this topic:

Dear Ms Horwath,

I am writing to urge you, My MPP, to oppose the proposed redevelopment of the old Royal Connaught building as a subsidized/partially subsidized housing development. I certainly support affordable housing, but I think it needs to located in the right place. As a teacher in Burlington for many years, I have observed how well children from subsidized housing have integrated with children from homes with considerably more income. The key to success there seems to be a mix of incomes and equal opportunity to access good school and municipal facilities. Downtown Hamilton has few of these things, and it's not hard to predict the social disasters that will result when families are dropped into an area with no parks, no playgrounds, and no rec facilities, but lots of traffic and, let's face it, lots of people experiencing personal challenges of various kinds.



The downtown area, with all its problems, needs to attract investors who will build attractions for tourists, conventions, and the citizens of Hamilton who do not live downtown. Will a large development of the sort proposed do that? Will these new residents have money to spend to support downtown businesses and attractions? Will the development raise the tone of the area, especially around Gore Park? And, more to the point, is this a convenient, safe and rational location for affordable housing for families and seniors?

When I read this story in the Spectator my heart sank. What a symbol for the decline of a city, when its grand hotel is converted to affordable housing....

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By urbanboy (registered) | Posted September 13, 2009 at 02:16:08

Would the Royal York be turned into housing?

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By Apropos (anonymous) | Posted September 13, 2009 at 09:54:13

Asking Andrea Horwath to oppose the Connaught project is like asking Swe'pea to fight Popeye. It won't do any good! Better you write Ted McMeekin and Sophie Aggeleonitis who actually have a say in government. Or better still. How about asking Council NOT to put this project at the top of the list. I suspect the province will just say...well that's what the city wants!!

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By beasleyfireworkstechnician (anonymous) | Posted September 13, 2009 at 10:16:02

discussing a complicted political and economic issue on the internet makes fools of all sides. yes, this is complex, messy and there's a lot of people feeling strongly about which way it should go.

at this point though, in any attempt to understand where poeple are coming from, i much rather take someone out for a beer then read yet another comment on a internet message board.

(seriously, this discussion would all play out much better in a pub then online. i'll even buy the first pitcher at the pheasent plucker)

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 13, 2009 at 10:40:40

ahh, the plucker. best wings in town. I'm with you.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted September 13, 2009 at 11:03:39

Sounds like a great idea, beasley

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By beasleyfireworkstechnician (anonymous) | Posted September 13, 2009 at 11:17:22

Thurs Sept 17th - 7pm - Pheasant Plucker (20 Augusta)

This isn't about proving yourself right or solving the problem. It's about:

step 1. drinking beer

step 2. understanding that one hotel is touching on a bunch of complicated issues that a whole lot of smart people care about, and that discussing complicated issues on the internet makes all of us (especially myself) sound stupid at times.

step 3. drinking more beer, and talking with people you might not always agree with.

citizenship isn't about being around people you always agree with, but recognizing that we all live here, that we need to disagree with each other, and that we all engage in this city in different ways.

see you thursday.

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By Mahesh P. Butani / http://www.metroHam (anonymous) | Posted September 13, 2009 at 12:14:04

Great approach from - beasley-fireworks-technician.
Beer does help to ferment hot conversation and cool activism!!

Here is an ideal ice-breaker:

"Towards an Ethical Architecture ~ Gregory Henriquez, 2007, ("Several contributors discuss the urgent need to re-examine the role of ethics, activism and critical commentary in architectural practice. The discussion is founded upon the belief that meaningful architecture must be a poetic expression of social justice.")


An Ethical Plan -Interview with Gregory Henriquez in Canadain Architect Magazine (www.cdnarchitect.com/issues/ISArticle.asp?aid=1000209881&issue=02012007)

BTW, just in case there is a no show - it just could be because: (//thetyee.ca/Views/2006/03/30/WoodwardsTakesShape/ ) ..."Not one member of the public came to speak... Normally, this would be a sign of apathy for a planning project. ... the quiet response may mean that consensus has at last been formed and the development will finally go ahead after a decade of the building lying dormant." !!!

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 13, 2009 at 12:35:59

a couple points.

  1. I can't make Thursdays.
  2. Isn't there a 'civic drinks' night each month or did that get scrapped when the Pepperjack closed? If so, perhaps we could plan with them as opposed to starting up a new meet-up, although if others are interested and available on Thursday, go for it. We've always hoped that RTH would lead to real-life meetings, discussions etc.... and not just ramblings online.

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By beasleyfireworkstechnician (anonymous) | Posted September 13, 2009 at 12:41:53

jason.

indeed, pj's is closed and civic drinks is taking a rest for a while.

why don't you find a date that works for you as the RTH folks in the next while, since it's really important you're able to make it.

post it up in the event, and it's good to go. (feel free to delete the above message re: time & date for thurs)

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By dave kuruc (anonymous) | Posted September 13, 2009 at 12:54:05

Civic Drinks is about to go in a different direction -actually a few different directions.

It will be going on the road to different wards and communities throughout Hamilton each and every month leading right up to the next municipal election in Nov. 2010.

We hope to kick this new initiative off in November 2009.

More details to come.

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By beasleyfireworkstechnician (anonymous) | Posted September 13, 2009 at 14:04:28

Dave, that's really exciting! Congrats on getting that together again.

Jason, let's still get a pints & wings thing going on. Just name the date over the next while.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted September 13, 2009 at 18:38:46

Pints and wings sounds good to me. I can't do Thursdays either though (or Tuesdays).

A midweek Wednesday meeting at some future date, perhaps?

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 13, 2009 at 19:29:47

Wednesdays no go for me. Someone should just pick a date/time and see how many can come.

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By beaslyfireworkstechnican (registered) | Posted September 13, 2009 at 21:16:46

Jason. Good call. Let's try this again.

Thurs Sept 17th - 7pm - Pheasant Plucker (20 Augusta)

step 1. drinking beer with people you don't know/agree with

step 2. understanding that one hotel is touching on a bunch of complicated issues that a whole lot of smart people care about, and that discussing complicated issues on the internet makes all of us (especially myself) sound stupid at times.

step 3. drinking more beer, and talking with people you might not always agree with, and realizing that you probable agree on a bunch of other things.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 13, 2009 at 21:36:40

Lol. Good choice. I hope some folks can make it this week. I'd love to in a future week.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 09:07:11

BFT wrote:

discussing a complicted political and economic issue on the internet makes fools of all sides. yes, this is complex, messy and there's a lot of people feeling strongly about which way it should go.

at this point though, in any attempt to understand where poeple are coming from, i much rather take someone out for a beer then read yet another comment on a internet message board.

I dunno. The two aren't mutually exclusive. In fact I find putting my thoughts in writing helps me crystallize my ideas. I'm less likely to employ half-baked assertions and gratuitous smears knowing that my words will be preserved in perpetuity, and I can be called out by people with google at their finger tips. Look at this discussion, for example. Virtually all the comments have been thoughtful and civil, and that is a good thing.

Beer is a good thing too. I probably can't make it this week, but hope to make it out to a future Civic Drinks night, particularly if it comes to my neighbourhood as I am lazy. Be warned though. Beer does not make me more civil. ;)

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 14, 2009 at 09:25:34

beaslyfireworkstechnican,

If you have a registered user account on RTH, you can post this event to the RTH events listing:

http://raisethehammer.org/createaccount/ http://raisethehammer.org/postevent/

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By z jones (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 09:31:02

Wow, 63 comments and (aguably) no trolls. This may be the longest CIVIL comment discussion in raisethehammer history. Kudos to everyone for restoring my faith in online humanity!

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By beaslyfireworkstechnican (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 10:04:59

One thought on why we might not want to make it an OFFICAL RTH event. Jason's come out pretty strongly on one side of the discussion, and it might be better just to keep it low key (for the nerds who read the thread), so it can seem somewhat impartial / open to discussion.

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By Really? (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 10:23:24

I agree, this is the most civil/on-side discussion on RTH thus-far!

Re: the Dundas & Sherbourne point, I'm not sure many of you know, but it was recently named the Most Dangerous Neighbourhood in Toronto (http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/689148)

It's amazing that, despite seeing clear evidence of Ghettoization, Hamilton Council continues to take the same path they've been taking for the last 25-30 years. They see Downtown as the best for amenity accessibility, and only because most other (newer) neighbourhoods were built to keep the poor out (aka built for cars). Simply b/c Downtown is 'most accessible' does not mean all social services need to be concentrated here.

Perhaps the City should increase accessibility to ALL neighbourhoods in Hamilton, Disperse the Social Services between these Nodes, and create a perfectly balanced and sustainable urban City (such as Toronto) where everyone, no matter age/race/social status/whatever can live together and support their respective communuties.

This is CLEARLY a Public Money 'Grab' by Battaglia & the Connaught 'Consortium' (aka LIUNA -Masters of the Public Money Swindlers).

Make sure everyone sends letters, or the same one forwarded, to Council, Mayor Fred, Andrea Horwath, David Christopherson, and The Spec (and local publications: Corktown Crier, Hamilton Downtowner, Mountain/Stoney Creek News, etc).

If it's Council & Co.'s GOAL to make Gore Park Hamilton's version of Sherbourne/Dundas (Regent Park/St Jamestown) by "Bring[ing] More People Downtown", then CONGRATS -- You have succesfully killed any hope of the Gore, or Downtown in General, to come back from life at all.

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By Really? (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 10:31:25

QUESTION: Does anyone know the Downtown BIA or International Village BIA's stance on this? They clearly have influence on Councik decisions, so perhaps we should be forwarding our letters to them as well, pointing out facts re: ghettoized neighbourhoods and the crime that follows (ie Sherbourne/Dundas).

Downtown BIA Contact info: http://www.downtownhamilton.org/PageTemp...

International Village BIA Contact info: http://www.hamiltoninternationalvillage....

Hamilton CoC: http://www.hamiltonchamber.on.ca/contact...

Beasley Neighbourhood Association: http://www.ourbeasley.com/contactus.php

Corktown Neighbourhood Association: http://www.corktownna.ca/

Lets make sure EVERYONE is aware of this Proposal!!!

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 10:31:57

BFT wrote:

One thought on why we might not want to make it an OFFICAL RTH event. Jason's come out pretty strongly on one side of the discussion, and it might be better just to keep it low key (for the nerds who read the thread), so it can seem somewhat impartial / open to discussion.

Jason wrote a blog based on his own opinion. I don't think anyone would confuse this with an official RTH 'position'.

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By beaslyfireworkstechnican (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 10:45:23

highwater

true, but some of the folks that i've come across think jason & ryan = rth's editorial board and offical view.

which is really really silly to think, but not everyone is wise enough to separate blog comments from the publication.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 14, 2009 at 10:48:30

we might not want to make it an OFFICAL RTH event

Just to clarify, it needn't be an official RTH event to be on our events listing - it's merely a community service for people to get the word out about upcoming events.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 10:53:21

Food for thought re: this topic.

http://www.thespec.com/News/Business/art...

"Nearly 60 per cent of Canadians would have trouble paying the bills if their paycheque were delayed one week, a new poll suggests."

While I'm a little suspicious of the results of self-reported polls, I think it does suggest that this issue is a bit more about poverty than some posters think--it appears that many people would greatly benefit from more affordable housing, and considering the services readily available downtown, it would seem (to me) to be a no-brainer that if there is a demand for subsidized housing in this city, that it go where it can best serve its inhabitants. Mixed neighbourhoods would be great, but given all the discussion on RTH about peak-oil I'm surprised there are so many people in favour of exiling low-income people to underserviced and inaccessible suburban areas where cars are a necessity.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 14, 2009 at 10:56:00

I don't think anyone would confuse this with an official RTH 'position'.

What highwater said. Actually, I don't even personally have a position on this proposal, let alone an "editorial" position.

While I like the idea of mixed income developments in general, I just don't have enough details to determine whether it will be a well-balanced plan.

A few observations, though:

  • The consortium is hoping the government will provide $18 million out of the $27 million total - that's two-thirds of the cost to off below-market rates on half the units. That in itself is a financial red flag.

  • The public funding works out to be $180,000 per unit to pay for a 20% discount on market rents. Given that you can actually buy a decent house downtown for $180,000, this seems like poor value for a public investment.

In all, it rather looks like the Connaught consortium is hoping to subsidize their for-profit operations through the inclusion of a big public grant under the cover of "affordable housing". Something smells funny here.

To be honest, I've never been able to understand why the solution to unaffordable housing for people with limited means has to be in the form of government-owned or -funded housing.

Why not simply take that money and use it to ensure that everyone has enough income to pay for housing?

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 11:04:20

"Why not simply take that money and use it to ensure that everyone has enough income to pay for housing?"

Ahh, a guaranteed minimum income? That might solve a number of poverty-related issues, but woah, you'd better be careful there, Ryan...you might attract too much attention with radical ideas like that!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 14, 2009 at 11:24:01

Remember when the welfare reform provisions of the Macdonald Commission Report were considered too radically neoliberal? We could wish, today, to have a welfare program that was 'merely' as draconian as those recommendations, including a guaranteed annual income. :(

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By ror (anonymous) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 11:38:46

Currently I live in the downtown core. I am educated, speak english, and "surprise!" i am out of work right now. So in the eyes of many of the people in this thread, I shouldn't have the privilege to live in the downtown core. Why? because i have no purchasing power. It upsets me when i read postings from people in this city who believe that the downtown is no place for poor people, and the subsidized housing that some need.

you could be poor one day too. i didn't expect it, but i make do. and it helps being downtown. I dont have to have a car to get around. i can walk. i can buy my groceries without having to take a taxi. i don't even need a bus pass.

Did anyone else pick up on the fact that only a fraction of the housing in the connaught is going to be public? who knows, the shops and dwellings in the connaught proposal might actually make the pedestrianization of gore park make sense. with pedestrian areas, you need anchors at either end to make people want to walk there. At one end you have Jackson Square, at the other end of gore park, what do we have now? an empty hotel. so why not allow shops to go there. why not have people live there. at least there will be something, rather than nothing.

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By Really? (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 11:45:36

ror... There are already SEVERAL DOZEN affordable units built, with several more dozen to be built!

We just want a healthy mix so everyone (Hamiltonian or Not) does not perceive Hamilton, or Downtown specifically, as a destination for the Poor ONLY!

Re: the 'private' portion of the Connaught; I doubt it ever happens. It's just the Consortium trying to sweeten the deal to urbanists like us!

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By beaslyfireworkstechnican (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 11:50:03

i'd like to stay impartial, but it would be really interesting to hear what "proper" mixed us of poor vs not poor should be. we've heard a lot of "there's too many", but does anyone have an idea of what the right number would be in their mind?

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By beaslyfireworkstechnican (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 11:51:20

"us" = "use"

less coffee for me...

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 11:52:16

ror wrote:

who knows, the shops and dwellings in the connaught proposal might actually make the pedestrianization of gore park make sense.

Fat chance of that happening, I'm afraid. The retail space in the Terraces remains empty, and when the Farmer's Market moves back, that whole section of JS will be empty too. Plus, as a commenter above noted, Battagila et al are already in talks with the city to fill the Connaught space with social services.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted September 14, 2009 at 12:34:04

ror, i think i can understand where you're coming from. but i do also think that we live in a city that's very accessible, even if you're not living directly in the downtown core. There's plenty of neighbourhoods that are still accessible right outside the boundary of downtown, close to groceries and other things, and very affordable. I live in one and border three others that are all quite affordable. It's a seven-minute walk to get groceries, and i usually walk to work.

And if you compare me and someone on welfare disability, they'd have more money left over after their rent each month. (Which kind of irritates me, because I work pretty hard). But that's the reality of part-time work, student loan repayment and a clergy stipend.

Sure, I'm quite well-educated and if I'm reading a book in Gore park, my presence won't scare anybody out of there (well, most days... ;))

But I am quite cognizant that I provide a very limited economic contribution, despite any other contributions I may make. And that cannot be the norm if our downtown is to be successful.

Because if all you have is people like me, are we EVER going to fill in all those empty retail spaces? Nope. Are restaurants going to survive? Nope. Are we going to book hotel rooms and sell luxurious condos - or even entry-level single professional condos? Nope. And that is part of a healthy city too, and one that we're really lacking right now.

Let's think about who I benefit. No Frills, certainly. Occasionally the farmer's market. One or two restaurant purchases, maybe a dozen coffees and a few lunches a month, a couple other items like clothing or tools/supplies/gardening items from Canadian Tire.

Unfortunately, no one can take that economically miniscule purchasing power and whip it into a recipe for downtown revitalization and successful retail! You can run a McDonald's or Giant Tiger or a Dollarama till the cows come home, but you can't sustain the Keg.

There's a reason several cafes have closed in the IV, that clothing stores aren't all over Jackson Square, and that payday loan places litter King Street. You can't make your business work where the money isn't, and predatory businesses will flock to the vulnerable and desperate.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 12:36:43

to clarify, I wasn't attempting to come 'on strong' or make other opinions feel unwelcome. Again, one of the crappy things about the internet. I assure you, I'm one of the most easy going guys to chat with you'll ever meet. And my opinion can be changed with new facts and good arguements.

In fact, I heard some new info on this project this morning that doesn't necessarily sway me, but makes it more attractive.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted September 14, 2009 at 12:45:08

ror, I think you are missing the main point on which most people are fighting this development. It's not necessarily due to an aversino to mixed use or subsidized housing. It is largely a matter of the PHYSICAL building. Here we have a beautiful building, designed as a hotel and used for a hotel for its entire life. WHy would we chop that up into residential units, subsidized or not? Would we take a cinder block warehouse with no windows and do the same? How about a glass and steel tower which has all of the systems in place to be an office building?

Mixed use and subsidized units are fantastic - but they should be placed in buildings that physically suit that use.

My letter:

Mayor and Council,

I know you are busy so I will keep this short. As an active citizen who cares deeply for our entire city, I am strongly against the proposal on the table for the Connaught building.

Please pay no attention to the smoke-and-mirrors discussion of housing needs. The question is not "do we need more subsidized housing?" Instead, we should be asking "Is subsidized housing the right choice for the Connaught?" We all know that the answer to that question is an emphatic "No." I would in fact argue that ANY housing project is inappropriate for the Connaught. I completely agree that we need more people living downtown, but this needs to take place in buildings suited to residential development, not in premium hotel space.

Additionally, I think it is wholly inappropriate for the consortium to be requesting that 2/3 of the project cost be subsidized by the governement. If they cannot come up with a profitable business model, they should sell the hotel to someone who can. Please send a message to the developers that the city will not bear the weight of their poor investment choices any longer.

Thanks for your time

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By beaslyfireworkstechnican (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 12:45:28

jason

good call on the clarification.

indeed, once again, the limits of the internet + communication + complex issues....

can't we get dave k to make some sort of flow chart of the issue / assumptions?

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 13:12:47

"It's not necessarily due to an aversino to mixed use or subsidized housing. It is largely a matter of the PHYSICAL building. Here we have a beautiful building, designed as a hotel and used for a hotel for its entire life. WHy would we chop that up into residential units, subsidized or not?"

Well I guess I wouldn't mind some clarification from opponents of the project--is this a Connaught issue or a subsidized housing issue?

When someone writes, "The last thing government money should be used for is a massive project that will inject a huge group of more poor people downtown," I think it's pretty darn understandable that some people (myself included) might interpret this opposition to be anti-poor rather than against a poorly designed development scheme.

If this is truly opposition to the mis-use of a building or public money, I think that needs to be elucidated better by opponents. Having just stumbled upon this discussion this morning, it really appears to have been framed more as opposition to the potential tennants of a low-income housing development rather than the project as a boondoggle-in-waiting.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 13:22:07

my quote was taken out of context (big surprise) in the Spec. My initial post on this topic can found on the right and I'm quite clear in my opinion that this project doesn't belong in this building. I should have more clearly worded that quote. Just kind of whipped it down in frustration (and this is my second beef with this thing) with our same group of old boys getting another fat handout for another lackluster project.

If this project was proposed on the parking lot next to the Connaught I'd be welcoming 200 new residents downtown. just my two cents.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted September 14, 2009 at 13:33:58

borrelli,

The problem is that the discussion continues to follow this pattern:

-We want to put a 50% subsidized mixed-use housing complex into the connaught

-That is a terrible use of that building!

-What is so terrible about subsidized housing, why are you against the poor?

Anyone who opposes the development is swiftly labelled as "Against the poor" or "down on subsidized housing". The conversation quickly goes off on a tangent as everyone fights to defent their views from a subsidized housing frame of reference.

The bottom line is, despite tangents, we need to ask if this is a good investment IN THAT SPECIFIC PROPERTY.

Or as ryan said, why don't we just take that 18 million in subsidy and buy 100 houses scattered throughout the city and offer them at 80% market value?

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 14:04:25

"The bottom line is, despite tangents, we need to ask if this is a good investment IN THAT SPECIFIC PROPERTY."

Agreed, which is why I suggested that opponents do a better job of divorcing this issue from the tennants and provide a solid argument to people like me who don't yet understand why it's a poor use of the building.

For someone like me, who lives down the street from the Connaught and walks by it every day on the way to work, there's nothing that better exemplifies the decay of the city's core than a beautiful but empty building in a PRIME location. So when I hear "Development of Connaught" all I think is "YES! It can't possibly be worse than what's there now! More people downtown = better!"

But I'd like to fancy myself a reasonable man who can be convinced otherwise, so it'd be helpful if someone gave me the boilerplate, "for public consumption" argument as to why the Connaught development is the WRONG decision, ideally without referencing its proposed tennants.

In the absence of a solid financial/preservationist/whatever argument against subsidized units downtown, it really just sounds like NIMBYism has finally infected what I figured was the last refuge of progressive Hamilton urbanists...

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 14:11:10

Meredith writes: And if you compare me and someone on welfare disability, they'd have more money left over after their rent each month. (Which kind of irritates me, because I work pretty hard)

How can you make such assumptions?

I do not mean to be critical but in your words you are spreading a propaganda. Please think about it, you have your health, you are young, educated and have the potential to earn much more.

http://poverty.thespec.com/2009/08/tryin...

Any worker could find themselves becoming disabled, then having not only to struggle with the illness but living in poverty as well.

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By Really? (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 14:12:54

I also find it hard to believe that there are NO OTHER interested Parties in purchasing this building.

If Stinson did anything, it was bring an unprecedented amount of attention to this gorgeous landmark!! Is there seriously NO ONE in the world willing to take a chance on Hamilton... Really!?

This whole situation is fishy! I'm sure Battaglia & Co. have been holding on our real offers simply to access that cash-cow which is Public Funds. They saw LIUNA do it with Lister, so they're thinking, "Why Not!?" with the Connaught.

It's plain and simple... this is an excuse to profit off the backs of taxpayers (just as they would have profited had they sold the Connaught once they used Public Funds to clear it out).

And of Course Marini is going to defend it --if a huge, super-popular abandoned building is 'restored' under his watch, it'll look good on him (on paper, anyway).

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By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 14:24:09

If you plop hundreds more poor people downtown you're just not going to get the sort of urban environment that most people who post on this site tacitly yearn for - i.e. the yuppie-friendly, arts centric, boutique, cafe and condo filled core that you'll find in places like Portland or Seattle. It's as simple as that.

Don't get me wrong - there's absolutely nothing wrong with that sort of urban environment. In fact, I wish Hamilton's was something more like that. I've been working for four years in a downtown law firm. My wife is a resident at Mac. Would we even consider living downtown? Not a chance, even despite the obvious plethora of benefits associated with living in close proximity to one's workplace. Instead, we live in a condo in Burlington and drive in everyday.

It's not because there's anything physically or culturally wrong with Hamilton. Environmentally and architecturally Hamilton is a beautiful city with a tremendously proud history. But, to put it simply, the downtown denizens are not of a type that I would feel comfortable raising a family around. Nor, to be honest, are they of a type that I want to be around myself. I spent eight years in post-secondary education to get to where I am today. When I think about it honestly, I have to confess that I want to live amongst people who have similar education levels, similar incomes, similar tastes, interests, and life experiences (it doesn't mean that I want to live in a gated community; it just means that I want to have enough of these people around so that I don't feel marginalized myself). With all due respect to the downtown's current denizens, I can't relate to them, and I doubt if they can relate to me. Sure that's snobbery - I won't deny it. But it's also something so deeply engrained in human societies that it can't possibly be engineered out.

The whole issue with Hamilton, particularly with respect to its downtown, really is a class issue - the city has lost it's socio-economic equilibrium. Most people on here probably want a downtown catering to the well-off or moderately well-off (shall we say "the respectable"). What you've got now is a downtown built almost entirely around the needs of the mentally ill, the disabled, those with substance abuse problems, the indigent elderly, etc. - in other words, the underclasses. It is an unsavoury and somewhat guilt-inducing thought to be sure, but the truth of the matter is that no one wants to live amongst these people - even what's left of the traditional working classes in Hamilton have decamped almost entirely to the mountain and the suburbs. Of course every city must have its underclasses. You can't live in Manhattan, or central London, or downtown Toronto without coming into contact with members of the underclasses on a daily basis. But to be surrounded by them, to be so overwhelmingly outnumbered by them as one is in Hamilton is an entirely different matter.

It all comes down to the simple irrefutable truth that middle and upper middle income people won't live or even spend time downtown unless there are lots of other middle and upper middle income people there too. Preach and pontificate all you want on the issue of social justice - you just can't overcome this fact.

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 14:54:44

First off; kudos to everyone here for keeping this debate civil, there's never an easy answer for a polarizing issue like this but with meaningful debate can at least get close to a better solution.

Secondly, I thought I'd inject a few hard numbers into a debate which is sorely lacking hard evidence. (No offence intended to those who're debating.)

I navigated the city's god awful website and found the form one would use to sign up for affordable housing. (http://www.myhamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/2609D91F-5F8B-4F19-9A27-9EE3B12D397A/0/BuildingSelectionForm.pdf)

On that form is lists the number of "units" avaliable in each complex - organized by their area in the city. (The city's definition of each area can be found at: http://www.myhamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/D0... It also says the size of the units available for each complex(i.e. number of bedrooms), using the number of bedrooms and multiplying by the number of units I found the total number of subsidized residents in each area. This is of course assuming one person per bedroom and using the average unit size for each building.

The data breaks down like this... Area..........Total Units......Av. Bdrms......Total Beds Ancaster 140 1.5 258.5 Dundas 263 2.08 532 Flamborough 159 1.5 273.5 Lower S.C. 385 1.2 511 S.C. Mountain 531 2.75 1396.5 East Mountain 3637 2.42 8264 West Mountain 1005 2.83 2686.5 East End 1936 2.25 4606 North End 463 2.8 1178.5 Central 866 2.05 1486 Downtown 3710 1.86 5057

West End 1247 2.27 2180.5

TOTALS 14,342 2.13 28,430

As you can see the Downtown area (Queen-Wentworth, Barton-Escarpment) already houses a quarter of all subsidized housing. In terms of total number of people the East Mountain has many more beds but keep in mind the east mountain area is also 4-5 times larger than the Downtown area and that more of those units are single family style rather than the core's predominant single bedroom style which lend themselves more easily to becoming flop houses.

If we use rough estimates of the areas of those locations we see that the downtown core has an average density of 2.53 subsidized beds per acre. Whereas the East Mountain has a density of 0.99 beds per acre. This is why (in my opinion) the "ghettofication effect" downtown is more pronounced, a larger concentration of disadvantaged people, leads directly to a larger concentration of those who prey on the disadvantaged, which in turn drives away those who have the means to, allowing more disadvantaged people to move in.

Frankly, I think the core has done more than its fair share in providing affordable housing for those who need it. What we need to do is upgrade the existing stock and start enforcing rules designed to prevent the upgraded affordable housing from becoming slums. They also need to spread out any new development so the affordable units are in sustainable mixed income neighbourhoods, not use "mixed for a few years" income neighbourhoods.

I'm also disgusted by the developer's cynical use of the "you hate lest they be labelled as heartless in time for the next election.

Whew, that was a long one!

P.S. I think a cool next step for this data would be to create a google map of all the residences perhaps broken down by ward. I know nothing about making one though but if anyone wants a had, or a copy of my data just let me know.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted September 14, 2009 at 15:17:29

Grassroots - I am no way, ever, saying the disabled should have less money.

But I was pretty shocked to find out I was living on less than they were - two days ago, from statistics someone else posted and I looked up. I had to verify them. I could not believe it.

And it's ridiculously embarrassing for me to post my own situation. But considering what the issue is, someone has to speak from personal experience.

That's based on Canadian statistics of what an Ontario person receiving disability welfare will obtain. Then subtract the average rent of a 1 bedroom in Hamilton. When I look at what I have left every month after my rent, to pay my hydro and eat everything else, it's less than that.

That's not to say anyone should be getting less, and especially not welfare recipients. A guaranteed minimum income would be great (though I doubt the positive effects would last long until things were jacked up to exploit the new minimum).

My point is that "only" having a disability welfare-level income is not a death sentence, even without subsidized housing, especially in this city - even if you need to pay more and get extra help because you can't walk places or carry groceries or other things a healthy person can do: such as the gentleman I know with severe RA who has to get everything delivered by Grocery Gateway (with the attendant markup) or the folks I know with MS, including those in my family. (like the article you posted).

The paltry amounts of those who are on welfare and are able to work are a whole other story, I understand. That's a really bad place to be, and I can't imagine being there.

I don't have a lot of money, and there's enough people like me downtown - able-bodied or not, nice or not, good character or not, educated or not. It's economic reality that whatever else positive is brought downtown, it doesn't change without money involved.

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By Mahesh P. Butani -- http://www.metroHami (anonymous) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 15:29:03

>> Jason: "I assure you, I'm one of the most easy going guys to chat with you'll ever meet. And my opinion can be changed with new facts and good arguments".

Since the offer for Beer by BFwTech did not work :-) I am going to attempt an offering of -- a "Conversation Revolution": "The Industrial Revolution harnessed physical machines to extend and enhance our muscles. The Information Revolution harnessed virtual machines to extend and enhance our nervous systems. A "Conversation Revolution" would harness the existing infrastructure of physical machines and virtual machines to create a mesh out of "networks of objects" and networks of individuals and organizations. Such a mesh would enhance coordination and collaboration and create wealth by introducing new efficiencies. It would also expand opportunities to generate new knowledge." ...from: www.dubberly.com/articles/what-is-conversation.html

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 15:34:40

sorry Mahesh, but you lost me. LOL.

Hey check it out. Almost 100 posts and NO trolls yet!

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By beaslyfireworkstechnican (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 15:50:55

wedge issue + no trolls = good job team.

7pm thurs.

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By Really? (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 16:03:23

Trolls would never go to a meeting IRL (In Real Life in troll) as they would have to... shower...

Perhaps there should be an organized date, invite Council & Battaglia, host it at the FRWY or something of similar size, and get a real debate going.

I can guarantee Bratina would show up! He's on the fence about the issue now... lets make sure he's on our side and not Bataglia/LIUNA's.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 16:20:51

^Dare I say it, but invite Dreschel. Terry Cooke too. And Paul Wilson for good measure. The Spec's coverage of this issue has been sickeningly biased to date, with Dreschel of all people providing the only shred of balance in his column today.

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By beaslyfireworkstechnican (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 16:21:13

Really

Lets try beers first. For the first time in years, a whole bunch of people that tend to agree on things downtown are in strong disagreement around an single issue (see rth, facebook, forums blogs etc...)

If the fundamental core of citizenship is the ability to keep working with those you might not always agree with, then we might just have a bit of work to do.

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By Really? (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 16:42:37

Beasly>> Good Point!

"Wanna meet up to yell about it" doesn't sound nearly as inviting as "Wanna meet up for beers and yell about it" LOL

But time is the problem; Vote goes WEDNESDAY! Perhaps it should be TOMORROW (Tues @ 7pm).

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By Really? (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 16:46:06

Cont'd (sorry)

Better yet, why don't we organize a manifestation infront of City Hall (Mall?) to show our disgust!

Hmmm, a) I don't even know where a gathering spot would be at City Mall, and b) Council would never see us anyway as they just park in the underground or parkade and avoid the Downtown Folk at all costs (with the exception of Bratina whom I've seen walking from his Corktown home to City Mall a couple times).

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 16:55:57

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By Really? (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 17:20:56

You're getting off topic, Grassroots!

This isn't a debate as to whether our Welfare System works or not (clearly it doesn't, and most educated people know this it, ignore it, and hope the next generation will deal with it (I'm looking at YOU, Baby Boomers).

The issue is that Downtown is becoming a ghetto (original definition, not new-urban definition) of Low-Income residents, and that they should be dispersed throughout the whole City around our existing Transit Nodes, while the City should concentrate on improving service to these existing Nodes, and creating new Transit Nodes.

Not all of these 'working poor' work downtown. Infact, I know a lot work in the Stoney Creek Business District along the QEW. They take the B-Line with me most mornings and I hear them discussing their situations with others in the same boat. AND THE BUSES DON'T EVER REACH THERE! Some people have to bike after the bus reaches it's terminus.

If affordable housing was spread across the City, said residents would be able to choose where to live based on the type of work they (or Ontario Works) finds for them!

HOW IS THIS NOT ALREADY IN EFFECT!?

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted September 14, 2009 at 18:02:52

most of the working poor I know have hour-plus commutes by bus to power centres in the burbs.

But try to get affordable housing out there.. nooo way!

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 19:08:13

Meredeth and Really are hitting the nail on the head with their comments. Clustering all the less fortunates together is good from the city's point of view, it allows them to more efficiently serve them by building shelters and outreach centres in one place. The problem is, that it starts a self perpetuating cycle that only brings the area further and further down. Spreading them out would prevent ghettos from forming and also allow people to work closer to their jobs or families.

Also I wanted to clarify a typo in my long winded post, this.. "I'm also disgusted by the developer's cynical use of the "you hate lest they be labelled as heartless in time for the next election. ",

should have read... "I'm also disgusted by the developer's cynical use of the "you hate the poor" rallying cry to force the councillors to approve this deal, lest they be labelled as uncaring just before an election."

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By beaslyfireworkstechnican (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 20:56:45

Really>>

Exactly. Day after the vote. Either way, people are going to be happy/not happy, and this isn't the last issue the city's going to face around the downtown/housing. I really appreciate that RTH hasn't become an echo-chamber for any group, but this seemed to test the groups cohesion. May as well start to mend fences...over beer(s).

this Thurs - 7pm - Plucker. I've got the first pitcher, so show up early.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 22:13:47

Something for everyone to read

http://poverty.thespec.com/2009/08/thoug...

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted September 15, 2009 at 07:43:58

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By z jones (registered) | Posted September 15, 2009 at 08:06:51

By z jones

Wow, 63 comments and (aguably) no trolls.

By jason

Hey check it out. Almost 100 posts and NO trolls yet!

By beaslyfireworkstechnican

wedge issue + no trolls = good job team.

By A Smith

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-

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By zookeeper (registered) | Posted September 15, 2009 at 08:24:52

Please people! Resist the urge to feed the troll NO MATTER how cute he looks at with with those big bwown eyes! It's not healthy for him, and it will cause this forum to just be overrun by trolling (again).

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 15, 2009 at 09:04:51

well that was fun while it lasted. I'll take 100+ painfree, worthwhile, thoughtful comments. Pick up the discussion at the plucker I guess.

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By Mahesh P. Butani -- http://www.metroHami (anonymous) | Posted September 15, 2009 at 10:40:39

Jason, I mentioned earlier that Hamilton needs to develop a "Design Centric" language in Hamilton to enable new solutions and approaches to grow from our many community interactions.

Below are some examples of this kind of thinking in the product and interface design fields, but which can very easily be stretched to the field of architecture and planning and urban geography.

Amir Khella has developed an amazing set of slides on Design Thinking... (www.slideshare.net/akhella/design-thinking-for-startups-1971227 ) - which may help understand what I am alluding to.

Chris Bernard has also very powerfully addressed this issue at: www.slideshare.net/chrisbernard/design-thinking-dallas

I wanted to talk at length about 'affordability' and "affordable housing" -- But instead I am going to leave you with pointer towards James J. Gibson, "Affordance" and "Ecological Psychology" with a hope that you can connect the dots!

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By Really? (registered) | Posted September 15, 2009 at 10:58:45

I have yet to receive a single response from anyone I emailed (Council, Myr Fred, BIAs, Neighbourhood Associations...) re: this serious issue.

Has anyone else received any feedback from the hoards of emails sent yesterday?

I'm surprised as I usually get a least a couple responses within 24hrs.

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted September 15, 2009 at 12:20:48

Really? wrote: "I'm surprised as I usually get a least a couple responses within 24hrs. "

It's not that shocking, people with public positions need to walk a very fine line with this issue. No matter what side they choose (assuming they have the balls to even pick one) they'll be pissing off a large chunk of the population. For the councillors its politically safer not to say anything until the vote so that way they can better spin whatever the outcome is.

As for the BIA's and Neighbourhood Associations I'm sure those groups are having as much internal arguing about this issue as the RTH community is and I doubt they'd want anyone speaking for them until they have a unified (or at least sort of unified) stance on the issue.

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By synxer (registered) | Posted September 15, 2009 at 13:26:39

well that was fun while it lasted. I'll take 100+ painfree, worthwhile, thoughtful comments.

Your articles definitely intrigue on the high degree. Lots of comments means people are thinking and that's always a good thing.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted September 15, 2009 at 19:49:58

Jason >> well that was fun while it lasted.

It's funny that most of you lefties are in favour of higher gas taxes, because you know that this will reduce the amount of gas people consume. Yet when it comes to Hamilton real estate, something you want to see an increased demand for, you also choose high tax rates. What gives?

If we know that high tax rates reduce demand and low tax rates increase demand, doesn't it make sense to lower tax rates on residential properties?

I would love if someone could answer this question... how does charging almost twice as much in taxes (than Toronto) per dollar of real estate make Hamilton a good place to invest? Furthermore, what would be wrong with setting up a pilot project to see if lower tax rates could increase demand for Hamilton real estate?

It's not as if high tax rates have made Hamilton into a rip roaring success, while there IS evidence to suggest that Toronto has benefited from low tax rates.

A person interested in finding out the truth should be open to testing out new ways of doing things, therefore I ask you, what would be wrong with creating a small area of downtown with very low residential tax rates? If this led to increased assessments, we could roll it out city-wide. If it didn't work, we could cross it off the list. If science is based on testing theories, how is this any different?

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted September 15, 2009 at 20:31:52

Please write an article and we can discuss your ideas. This is not the thread for it!

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted September 15, 2009 at 22:44:56

seancb >> This is not the thread for it!

I thought this article was about reducing the density of low income housing downtown. Here is a quote from the article...

"If he really believes that he should be developing this project into condos so we really can get "all kinds of people" living downtown."

As you can see, Jason is arguing for more private sector investment downtown, exactly what my proposal is aimed at. How is it that my post about attracting more real estate investment is off topic, but posts on beer drinking and higher welfare payments are not?

Once again, if the goal is to increase the amount of private sector real estate investment, why don't we use incentives, as Ryan has suggested. If we know that high tax rates discourage activities and low tax rates increase them, why don't we lower property tax rates and encourage people to buy real estate here in Hamilton?

One last question, what will attract more investment here to Hamilton, sitting around drinking beer, or allowing investors to have higher returns on their investment?

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted September 15, 2009 at 23:36:49

This is a quote from your leader, Ryan McGreal...

"a carbon tax creates an incentive for people to make less polluting choices: to buy a more fuel efficient car, or to carpool, or to move into a neighbourhood with good transit."

There you have it. Ryan 100% agrees with the concept that high taxes discourage consumption. Now, simply replace "carbon" with "Hamilton real estate" and Ryan is telling us why so few people want to buy a condo downtown Hamilton.

Don't take it from me, take it from your the great Ryan McGreal. High taxes on product X discourages consumption of product X. Thank's Ryan for your excellent insight. Perhaps you could write an article on this.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted September 15, 2009 at 23:56:20

/thread

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted September 16, 2009 at 04:36:51

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By cptobvious (anonymous) | Posted September 18, 2009 at 01:35:25

One comment was made about the Queen & Sherbourne area, & N. to Dundas & what a mess it currently is. Yes, it is now a high crime area relative to other areas of Toronto, but was that caused by a concentration of Ontario Housing,& shelters in the area? Many of the Ont. Housing developments have been there for many years before things took a turn for the worse. Substances abusers may be poor, but most poor people are not substances abusers. (& not all substance abusers are poor.)

Maybe some of the causes of that area's decline was the gentrification of areas East of Jarvis? People who could live comfortably in those areas ended up moving because of higher rents, & accommodation being sold out from under many tenants. Home owners in the area saw their taxes dramatically increase in recent times & sold out to grateful Yuppies & developers.

A very large Salvation Army men's shelter is due to open soon near Shuter & Jarvis, but tenants must go through substance re-hab first before they can live there, but more importantly What Other Area would have accepted the building or the tenants?

A good friend became seriously handicapped a few years ago. After being released from a physical rehab facility, she knew that she could not yet safely live on her own. So she moved from her former home in the De Grassie St. area to a relative's home in Mississauga. A 1/2 hour visit to the eye, heart, diabetes clinics, or a dietician's appointment @ St. Michael's Hospital took often 7 hours to accomplish. (The wait for Wheeltrans on both ends of the trip often greatly exceeded the appointment time + actual travel time.)

While she was in the 'Burbs she was supposed to be walking & getting more independent. The distances involved in getting to the drugstore, & the supermarket to get her diabetic diet & meds were impossible. Winter walking was treacherous, & there was no one around if she did fall. That was the most frightening thing of all. The barren nature of daytime suburbia. No local coffee shops to gab in, no libraries, no matinee movies near, & no familiar faces. Just huge unending big box stores, when she could get a ride to shop at all. If she had been better able to cope with public transit, it still would have been impossible since the 'Burb buses only run with any frequency during rush hours. Riding crowded buses is difficult enough when you are 100% healthy.

She has since moved back to Downtown Toronto (Jarvis & Shuter area) into an affordable housing unit. She has never been happier or more physically active & healthy in years! There are things to do, concerts to attend, the St. Lawrence Market, the local Library, movies, & Toronto's unending cultural events. St. Michael's Hospital, clinics & her family Dr. are within walking distance in good weather.

Older people, & handicapped people do Not want to be shipped off to Suburbia, putting them miles away from their family Dr., clinics & hospitals, & the places that they know & feel safe in. How much more $$ is Hamilton prepared to spend on DARTs, or do we just make people wait longer? People with young children do not want to be in a place with Malls as the only place to go with their kids. (They do want daycare, museums, zoos, libraries, & cultural events within a decent distance, just like the rest of us.) They don't want to pay more for everything -& you Do pay more in suburbia. They do want to keep their kids in sports & activities, which also often costs much more outside of the City.

Public transit in Hamilton, outside the city core is MUCH worse than suburban Toronto & Mississauga. Do you want people who need help housing themselves to buy a car? Maybe the elderly could hop on their bikes, & climb that hill on Confederation Pkwy?

Mixed income neighbourhoods & buildings are the best solution for any City. Saying that the City core is "Too Good" for some of it's citizens, is a statement about the class warfare that seems to be bubbling up more often of late. ('Seen the movie, " Area 51" ?) I read a letter to Ed. last week from one 'gentleman' who suggested that 'they all be moved to Mudd St., & Confederation Pkwy.' He lived in the outskirts of the GHA. So, why didn't he suggest that all the poor be moved to his area?

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted September 18, 2009 at 12:49:55

cptobvious - I don't understand your point about Sherbourne and Dundas. On the one hand you are saying it HAS declined and on the other hand you are saying your friend lives their and she loves it (did I read that right?) Which is it?

I also don't understand your reasoning for why it has declined. Rents to the east increased so the Yuppies moved in and this caused the problem? How so?

I don't agree that low income folks should be priced out of any neighbourhoods. They need effective and affordable transit and to enjoy mixed neighbourhoods. This should apply to all urban neighbourhoods!

Another point I don't understand - You appear to be agreeing that mixed neighbourhoods are good for everyone (I live in one and I agree with that. They are good for middle income earners, high income earners and low income earners - the mixture benefits us all). But then you say your friend lives in a low income neighbourhood and loves it. I have 2 friends who grew up in low income neighbourhoods (Regents Pk and Dundas/Sherbourne). They both hated it. In fact one of them explained just how hard it was for his family to get out, and break out of the cycle of poverty the neighbourhood encouraged. Their words not mine. All I know is that these neighbourhoods are not safe to walk through at night. None of this is new - low income neighbourhoods concentrate crime and hopelessness.

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By Schoobabe (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2009 at 15:04:19

NIMBY. Not In My Backyard. Okay, it's a misnomer. In Hamilton we're talking our figurative front yard. And we don't want poor people there. They're the big problem. Not that anyone meant to say that, but we'll treat them that way. The downtown BIA has been trying to get rid of downtowners for years. Problem is, nobody else wants them either, to the point that many of the poor, the disabled, the working poor etc. begin to feel that they ARE inferior and don't deserve to live in a decent community like any other person. They don't rate the "priviledge."

I'll let you in on a dirty little secret. The land opposite Mohawk College used to be a provincial mental hospital. It provided services to the mentally ill, not all of whom were restricted to the hospital's grounds. Mohawk itself was a farm, worked by and for the people in the hospital. Some local people, many who themselves might then have been called the "working poor," volunteered their services in the hospital. A number of the doctors who worked in the hospital lived in homes nearby, their children attending a school three blocks from these "undesireables" and later finding summer jobs in the hospital itself. The wealthy still bought property and built houses along the brow on either side of the hospital. One of the city's more expensive private schools occupied grounds kitty-corner from the hospital grounds.

To those who believe that you can have too many ill people in one part of the city, you overlook the fact that the old, sick and disabled not only can and do contribute to the economy of a community, but that they are the essential resources for an economy built on providing medical services. You cannot build an economy based solely on supply. Somehow you must accommodate demand.

There are many rationalizations for nimbyism, and "we've already got too many of those kinds of people" is by far the most popular. Even I might accept this if the recommendation were to provide the poor with greater access to a higher economic standard of living. You can't do this if you shift them from place to place. A stable community is required to build higher levels of economic activity. You get an entirely different sort of economic activity when you define the residents of a community as "undesireable" and shift them from place to place.

To build an interesting and viable downtown, local shops and businesses must not only serve the residents there, they must hire them to provide the products and services they require. That's how money circulates. And the rules of the community have to accommodate the people who live there ahead of those who might or might not eventually live there.

Has it occurred to anyone on the list that many of the things RTH contributors advocate, such as public transit and cycling, are affordable, and the argument not to provide them could be made under the excuse that they will only attract more poor people downtown?

And has it occurred to anyone that this city is itself poor? That the industrial wealth has left the area and that many individuals are living in reduced circumstances while retraining and others have taken early retirement with reduced income? Still others are relocating from poorer parts of the world. When you talk of not attracting the right sorts of people, you're simply planning to displace existing Hamiltonians with an imagined, better-spending citizen from some other place.

I think the odds for success would be better if we rebuild a new economy with the citizens at hand. Time to stop listening and believing the folks who say "I'll come downtown if you get rid of the people who live there now." Build a decent place for the citizens who now live there and their children are more likely to prosper and stay.

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