Coming up to the one-year mark when former Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna said the $1.7 Billion-dollar federal contribution to Hamilton LRT came with “conditions,” one of them being affordable housing, it appears Hamilton Council is only beginning to address that aspect of the deal.
In an hour and a half debate on a motion by Ward 3 Councillor Nrinder Nann to establish a strategic land acquisition plan along the Hamilton LRT corridor to allow for affordable housing, social housing and other communities amenities, it emerged that not much has been done so far on what McKenna said was a key condition.
When the Bay Observer attempted last year to find out who was ensuring affordable housing was being looked after, fingers pointed in several directions. Our questions to McKenna’s former ministry included:
No coherent Plan
- How much affordable housing would be a minimum threshold?
- Is the minister talking affordable housing or social housing?
- Can we define affordable housing? The Hamilton definition of affordable housing is “125%” or less of the average market price, which in the case of Hamilton would be in the$1500/month range
- Who is expected to pay for the affordable housing? Will any of the $1.7 Billion proposed by either Ontario or IC be expected to be used for this purpose?
- How will this condition be monitored or enforced? Will it be written into the MOU that Hamilton will be signing with Metrolinx?
- In making her announcement the Minister made a broader reference to social “conditions” attendant on the deal. Are there others besides affordable housing?
McKenna’s office responded that it was up to the city and the province to develop a plan. Metrolinx made it clear it was not up to them. The province never responded to a similar list of questions.
The conclusion up to that point then was that there was is no active discussion between anybody regarding making LRT for Hamilton contingent on affordable Housing.
Chad Collins proposal to move housing funding forward
That may change somewhat arising out of today’s Federal Budget. CTV has reported that the budget will include a $4 Billion housing accelerator fund that will be distributed to municipalities. This was one of the Trudeau campaign promises last fall. In February a motion by Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MP Chad Collins was passed at committee that would have set a process in place for determining the best way to use that money. Collins told the Bay Observer the accelerator fund “will give Hamilton a golden opportunity to start looking at ways and means in which to build new units.” He said the government will consult with experts to determine the way of getting the most impact from the funding and will have recommendations for the government as early as May.
At yesterday’s Hamilton GIC meeting staff reported they were working on a report for what is termed inclusionary zoning. Such zoning would allow the city to mandate specific amounts of affordable housing along the LRT route. The Ford government reduced the areas where Inclusionary Zoning would be allowed but left intact the provision that allows such zoning around major transit station areas, which in the case of Hamilton would be anywhere along the Hamilton LRT route and 500-800 meters north and south of the route.