Hamilton councillor seeks compromise in bid for housing development over parking lots

Photo of municipal parking lots at 5 and 13 Lake Avenue South in Stoney Creek, Ont. Opposition from the local business community contributed to a decision to hold on building an affordable housing development. Google Maps

Ancaster, Ont. Coun. Craig Cassar says he’s optimistic his proposed “compromise” will change some of his colleagues’ minds and reinvigorate a plan to build affordable housing on a pair of surface parking lots in downtown Stoney Creek.

The amendments to a housing initiative offer up alternatives for those who’ve previously argued the lots at 5 and 13 Lake Avenue South need to stay since they’re critical for accessibility to nearby small businesses and medical clinics.

The planned 67 new affordable housing units, to be built over those spots, were put on ice after a tie vote at a General Issues Committee meeting last February.

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The dwellings were part of a larger six-property plan earmarked to add 150 permanent homes to the city’s affordable housing stock.

Ahead of a final vote Wednesday, Cassars’ 10 amendments address the accessibility concern in addition to some public distress over the elimination of Veteran’s Lane — a thoroughfare honouring community members who served in overseas conflicts.

“I’m hoping that this can be a good compromise so we can get affordable housing built because we’re in a housing crisis and we need everything we can build,” Cassar explained.

The removal of the 57 parking spots is still on the table in the amendment, but it calls for the addition of 36 spots elsewhere to compensate for the loss.

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It also directs staff to find ways to optimize other parking in the area and potentially lease private lots, as is done in Dundas.

Staff would also be tasked with reaching out to local organizations to determine what is needed for people with “lower mobility.”

The renaming of one of the new developments and financing of a public art or mural to honour veterans is included.

Five city-owned parking lots and vacant properties in Hamilton , Ont. have been identified by non-profit groups as locations some 150 units of affordable housing could be built. City Of Hamilton

Additionally, the ask seeks to engage the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 622 to look into possible upgrades for the parkette at 12 King Street East and naming it in honour of veterans.

Cassar told Global News Monday he has had dialogue with some councillors over his idea and says none appear to be willing to change their minds at this point.

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He says has not talked with Coun. Matt Francis, who won support in a late 2023 motion to have the two lots held over.

“I’ve reached out to … Coun. Francis on three different occasions (but) I have not heard back,” Cassar admitted.

“I’ve talked to some other councillors. No one at this point has said they would change their vote.”

Francis says Cassar did not reach out to him directly and submits he first heard about the amendment when it was sent to the city clerk.

“I was carbon copied on it in an email with 50 other people,” said Francis.

“I mean all this work was done behind my back and I was not consulted on this before it was sent to the city clerk.”

In late February, Francis said the move to block the development was about protecting jobs, small businesses and giving parking options to those who attend the nearby medical centre and veterans who visit the Royal Canadian Legion.

Up until now, councillors have been split 8-8 on whether to proceed with the housing project at the expense of public parking.

Francis insisted the matter is not a “parking over people” narrative and suggested an alternative in Stoney Creek’s Riverdale West neighbourhood has been overlooked.

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“That could go forward … and provide almost as many affordable housing units for families in a neighbourhood that can support it even better than downtown Stoney Creek,” Francis said.

Click to play video: 'Unconventional spaces counted towards Ontario’s housing goal'
Unconventional spaces counted towards Ontario’s housing goal

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