CBC News: Hamilton residents urge city to make affordable housing mandatory along LRT route
Posted May 16, 2022
Posted May 16, 2022
Hamilton city council’s Light Rail Transit (LRT) sub-committee met for the first time in nearly five years Monday, and heard from residents urging the city to ensure affordable housing is built into construction plans along the transit corridor.
A handful of delegates with tenant organization ACORN were among those who appeared before the committee to call for an inclusionary zoning policy, which would require lower-cost units in new builds.
ACORN’s Mountain co-chair Marnie Schurter said the group wants a “bold” policy with a minimum of 40 per cent affordable housing in all condos and apartments that go up around the 14-kilometre route.
It also wants to see targets for accessible housing and for the policy to consider an income of $30,000 or less as its benchmark for determining affordability, she added.
Speakers on behalf of the Hamilton Community Benefits Network pointed out that Metrolinx has bought properties to make way for the LRT, displacing around 150 people and removing roughly 61 “deeply affordable or market-rate rentals.”
Environment Hamilton also pushed for inclusionary zoning, with Ian Borsuk saying affordable housing is important to ensure all Hamiltonians have access to transit.
The organization teamed up with a McMaster sociology class to look at census data around transit in the city and found many low-income families live where it’s available.
“Ultimately we need to be choosing an LRT that will service not just new residents that are moving in, paying significantly more for rent and for condos, but can be servicing people who are currently living in these neighbourhoods already,” he said.
Councillors heard the city is currently looking into an inclusionary zoning bylaw, which is expected to be developed in 2023.
But advocates who spoke at the sub-committee said that could be too late to have an impact.
Ward 3 Coun. Nrinder Nann echoed that concern, worrying that waiting a year could mean a “missed opportunity.” She asked staff whether it would be possible to accelerate the development.
Councillors were shown this mockup of the 14-kilometre LRT route, which will include 17 stops, during the light rail transit sub-committee meeting on May 16, 2022. (Supplied by City of Hamilton)
Jason Thorne, the city’s general manager of planning and economic development, said while some foundational work toward a bylaw is underway, priorities still need to be developed and an analysis of the rental market has to be carried out, both of which will take time.
Inclusionary zoning requires affordable housing to be funded by the other units in a project, so the trick is to observe the market and find the “sweet spot” for what it can deliver.
2023 is a “fairly aggressive timeline, given the nature and amount of work that needs to be completed,” said Thorne.
“I don’t see that bylaw being able to get in front of council any sooner than that.”
No plans for ‘park-and-ride’ lot
The sub-committee also received a pair of updates from Abdul Shaikh, the city’s LRT director, who said major construction on the project is expected to begin in 2024.
Some of the early work will be underway sooner, including plans to construct three water mains, one on Wentworth, another Sherman, and one at Rosewood and Main, to reroute water service around the project and minimize service disruptions.
Shaikh said Metrolinx has so far purchased 60 of the 90 properties needed for the LRT to be built, and has demolished 30 buildings so far.
Ward 12 Coun. Lloyd Ferguson, who represents Ancaster, questioned the director about how the route might limit access to the westbound Highway 403 if King Street is reduced to one lane, which he said would force some residents to “zig-zag” around.
The councillor asked if there were any plans for a parking lot so people coming from outside downtown could park, then board the train, adding it’s a measure he’s seen in other cities.
Brian Hollingworth, the city’s director of transportation, planning and parking, said there are no plans for a “park-and-ride” lot at the end of the line.
Ferguson fired back that makes the LRT “not practical,” warning it could hurt downtown businesses, theatres and restaurants if people can’t get in and out of the core easily.
“I just think you’re creating a monstrous problem and nobody has a solution.”
Article by Dan Taekema for CBC News Hamilton