Neighbours reach compromise with Greenwin to keep more family-friendly apartments

Greenwin Inc. is renovating two downtown highrises. The plan included phasing out most three-bedroom units and focusing more on singles.
The plan impacts 181 John St. N. and 192 Hughson Street. (Google)

A new deal between a property management company and the Beasley Neighbourhood Association involving apartments on John St. and Hughson St. means Hamilton families living there won't be kicked out of their homes.

The Beasley Neighbourhood Association (BNA) has reached a compromise with Greenwin Inc., a company that planned to phase out all but 10 of its three-bedroom apartments at 181 John and 192 Hughson St. The move, the BNA feared, was designed to push out lower-income families and replace them with singles and urban professionals.

Right now, the buildings have 65 three-bedroom units. Greenwin, in its renovations, planned to reduce that to 10. The compromise is 35 three-bedroom units, and at least 25 per cent of apartments being two bedrooms. It also includes letting existing tenants stay.

It's a compromise that will keep some of the families housed. It also prevents a long, drawn out battle at the Ontario Municipal Board.

About 60 people attended the committee of adjustment meeting in June to oppose the Greenwin application to renovate two buildings to reduce the number of three-bedroom apartments. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

"We traveled a long way in a short time and surprised even ourselves," said Rob Fiedler from the BNA. 

It marks a finish line for an issue that for two years, had residents fearing for their futures.

In 2015, the Social Planning and Research Council held a community meeting with residents who felt they were being shoved out.

Several residents shared stories of being called into meetings with building management. They felt pressured, they said, to sign documents agreeing to move out in exchange for a one-time payment and their last month's rent. Some said they were offered $2,000.

Greenwin has denied trying to displace people, saying it's doing needed repairs. CEO Kris Boyle told the city's committee of adjustment in June that Greenwin has spent $3.1 million so far to renovate 181 John St. N. It's spent another $2.9 million, she said, to renovate 192 Hughson St.

Jason Farr, Ward 2 councillor, reads aloud from a city bylaw governing the maintenance of garbage chutes during a January meeting about the properties. (John Rieti/CBC)

The company has also spent about $190,000 combined on pest control at the two buildings. Rents, she said, range from $1,050 to $1,250, including utilities.

Both sides called in former city councillors to help. Greenwin hired former mayor Larry DiIanni as a consultant. Brad Clark, a former Stoney Creek councillor and MPP, helped the BNA broker the compromise.

City council's planning committee discussed the compromise Tuesday.

Jason Farr, Ward 2 councillor, also gave notice that he'd ask the city to look into a "family friendly housing policy." That would mean developers have to consider families when building rental units, condos and affordable housing.