Hamilton’s Horwath to use ‘strong mayor powers’ to develop housing over Stoney Creek parking lots

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RELATED: To meet its housing target of 1.5 million homes by 2031, the Ford government is increasing the power of municipal leaders. But some argue it comes at the cost of due process and democracy within council chambers. Sam Houpt reports… – Aug 22, 2023

Hamilton’s mayor is set to veto a city council decision that would have saved a pair of surface parking lots in downtown Stoney Creek from being converted into affordable housing.

Andrea Horwath says she will invoke use of strong mayor powers to advance a housing development and replace two municipal lots on Lake Avenue South that have been a contentious issue among the city’s politicians for weeks.

The lots were part of a larger plan to add permanent dwellings to the city’s affordable housing stock after six city-owned properties were put on a list and handed to council in early December as part of a Housing Sustainability and Investment roadmap.

It sought to add some 150 permanent dwellings to ease a housing crunch across a city with some 6,100 people on waitlists seeking to occupy rent-geared-to-income homes.

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However, the initiative hit a roadblock bolstered by a petition spearheaded by the Stoney Creek BIA and residents who insisted the lots at 5 and 13 Lake Avenue South were critical for nearby small businesses and medical clinics.

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The two lots were initially not going anywhere after a motion to put the debate for development back on the table at Wednesday’s council meeting was defeated in an 8 to 8 vote.

Near the end of the council meeting, Horwath would alert her colleagues of her “a notice of intent” to veto “council’s intent not to build” over those lots.

Reiterating an immediate need for “adequate and affordable housing” Horwath insisted use of municipal lands is “a key part” of the housing roadmap and that the city needs to do everything it can to get people housed “as quickly as possible.”

“While I hoped to avoid using my strong mayor powers, the urgency of the situation and the dire need for affordable housing in all parts of our city leaves me with no other choice,” Horwath said.

“As mayor, I’m confident this decision is in the best interest of our city and our residents.”

The powers were granted to some fifty municipalities over the last year that formally committed to contribute to the Ford government’s goal of building 1.5 million homes by 2031 via the More Homes Built Faster Act.

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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


The veto now means 5 Lake Ave. could become a three-storey building yielding 24 affordable units with another 43 units earmarked for 13 Lake Avenue South via a five-storey building.

Horwath initially voiced her displeasure over the stalled Stoney Creek project in February after Ward 5 coun. Matt Francis won support for an amendment that held the two properties back from the housing plan.

“To be clear, the use of municipal lands for affordable housing is a key part of our Housing Sustainability and Investment Roadmap and we must, as a Council, be doing everything we can to get people housed as quickly as possible,” she said after an 8 to 8 vote defeated the idea.

Francis told Global News before the council meeting Wednesday the move was about protecting jobs, small businesses and giving parking options for visitors to a nearby medical centre and veterans who frequent the Royal Canadian Legion.

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Francis insisted he did his work on the file, including bringing a motion forward that suggests a site near the Dominic Agostino Riverdale Community Centre could be a replacement.

“I’m certainly grateful for all the work that we’ve done so far on the housing file, it’s an important file,” said Francis. “I brought that … motion forward to look at an alternative site that could bring even more units within my ward.”

Ward 12 coun. Craig Cassar had hoped to change some of his colleagues’ minds Wednesday through amendments offering up alternatives, including a nearby search for other parking spots and a look at leasing from private lots.

However, council voted not to lift a defeated motion for further debate.

Horwath says she will submit the formal veto documentation on Thursday.

As per the mechanics of the strong mayor legislation, council will have 21 days to vote to accept or refuse the veto, with a refusal requiring two-thirds of council votes.

Horwath only needs a third of the city’s 16 councillors to pass the legislation.

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