Comment 114386

By kevlahan (registered) | Posted October 27, 2015 at 10:59:03

This is an interesting article comparing two developments in two Canadian cities.

Now that Hamilton seems to be finally undergoing a development renaissance, it is important to start thinking about how to ensure affordable housing is incorporated into new developments or that new affordable housing is built.

However, I do think there are a lot of important differences between the two developments.

First, the old Woodward building was actually bought by the City of Vancouver in 2003 with the explicit goal of building a mixed-use, mixed-income development.

The Connaught was always privately owned, and the affordable housing proposal never seemed very serious or well-thought out. It was just an attempt to find some sort of use for the building that would allow the owners to make some money, financed by the public.

Any NIMBY opposition did not lead to the affordable housing project failing. It failed because it was not successful in attracting the grants it needed! The city actually recommended it as their top request for funding:

It is important not to mis-represent the history of the project!

The context is also important. Vancouver has hundreds of recently constructed high end condominium buildings, development pressure is enormous, and the Downtown Eastside is one of the last areas to face re-development pressure. The Downtown Eastside is also unique in Canada in its combination of extreme poverty and extremely high proportion of drug users, violence and drug dealing. And it has been that way for decades.

The situation in Hamilton is quite different, with no new condominium buildings constructed for decades downtown or adjacent neighbourhoods and only a handful of conversions. The social situation is also quite different, as anyone has has spent time in both places can see (I used to work part-time at the Carnegie Library). The Connaught is an exception in Hamilton, whereas in Vancouver this sort of high end development is the rule.

Going forward, Hamilton will need to start working with developers to ensure a proportion of geared-to-income housing. But Hamilton is still extremely far from the huge development boom that Vancouver has experienced for the past 30 years. And it should be remembered that Vancouver's creative trade-offs are in part made possible by the high value of the developments.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-10-27 11:06:59

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