Strong mayor powers used to convert parking lot to housing in Hamilton


Published March 27, 2024 at 6:18 pm

Andrea Horwath

Hamilton Mayor Andrea Horwath has used her new strong mayor powers to veto city council’s block on new affordable housing units on two Stoney Creek parking lots.

Two lots at 5 and 13 Lake Ave. S had been marked by city planning staff as a surplus to Hamilton’s parking needs. As such, the city proposed the development of two affordable housing projects on site, which would feature 67 units. A total of six such properties have been flagged, enough for 150 affordable units.

Though the experts working for the city flagged the site as an ideal spot for housing, some in the area were unconvinced. More than 1,300 area residents signed a petition to preserve the “important and well-utilized” lots.

Though the local Chamber of Commerce defended keeping the parking spaces, they met with some resistance in the General Issues Committee meeting. Councillor Cameron Kroetsch, who was recently forced out of the Police Board, said at the time, “We never declared a parking crisis; we declared a housing crisis…If we can’t do it with the most low-hanging fruit of a surface parking lot, where’s our commitment to affordable housing?”

Council unanimously declared a housing and homelessness crisis in April and pledged to build more homes in the city. The Ontario Government has also set housing construction goals for Hamilton. As of Ontario’s last report, the city is at 80 percent of that goal, putting them “on track.”

So far the city has approved 4,000 new units under the new program, bringing in nearly $18 million in provincial development funds. The ultimate goal is for Hamilton to build 47,000 new units by 2030.

The clash between the two sides of the debate was evident in the committee vote which tied 8-8.  Ted McMeekin, Jeff Beattie, Matt Francis, Esther Pauls, Mike Spadafora, Tom Jackson, Mark Tadeson and Brad Clark voted against. Kroetsch, Nrinder Nann, Maureen Wilson, Alex Wilson, Tammy Hwang, John-Paul Danko, Craig Cassar and Mayor Andrea Horwath voted for the development.

Horwath made her feeling clear right away later posting, “I am extremely disappointed in Committee’s decision to put parking lots before desperately needed affordable housing…to be clear, the use of municipal lands for affordable housing is a key part of our Housing Sustainability Roadmap and we must, as a council, be doing everything we can to get people housed as quickly as possible.”

The tie could have been broken at later March 27 general city council meeting, but remained split 8-8. As a result, Horath flexed her provincially granted strong mayor powers to veto the vote. Theses powers allow many Ontario mayors to break these kinds of deadlocks in specific circumstances.

Horwath informed council she would file a notice of intent to veto the vote at the end of the meeting. “There’s no question affordable housing is the most pressing and urgent issue that are city as an entirety is facing. I hear this concern from Hamiltonians each and every day and time and again council has declared we have a housing and homelessness crisis in our community,” she said.

“We all know using municipal lands is a key part of our housing sustainablity plan and we know we must do everything we can to get people housed as quickly as possible,” she continued. She said she had previously hoped to avoid using her strong mayor powers but the “dire need” for affordable housing left her “with no other choice.”

In a later statement, Horwath said she “firmly believed” in using municipal land to build new affordable homes, calling it a “vital step” toward addressing homelessnes in the city. There are currently 1,600 people living rough in the city.

Once Horwath submits her veto, council will have 21 days to support or deny her. Council needs a two-thirds majority to overturn the veto.



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