MacNab North tower will have new tenants, but pricier units, by next fall

Tenants will be able to move into a now-vacant CityHousing Hamilton tower by next fall now that Ottawa is contributing another $10 million to the construction.

The federal government announced $10 million for the CityHousing Hamilton project

Residents will move in to 500 MacNab in fall 2020. The building used to be rent-geared-to-income housing, but with the renovations, will be a percentage of "moderate market rent." (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Tenants will be able to move into a now-vacant CityHousing Hamilton tower by fall of 2020 now that Ottawa is contributing another $10 million to a major renovation.

It won't be the same 500 MacNab, the state of which CHH has wrestled with for years. This new iteration will be a seniors building, and less affordable than it was before.

Previously, tenants lived in 146 rent-geared-to-income (RGI) units, which means their rent was only what they could afford. In this newly renovated Ken Soble Tower, 74 units will be "medium market rent," CHH president Tom Hunter said.

The rest will be "moderate affordability."

The federal government is contributing $10 million to 500 MacNab, says Adam Vaughan, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development (Housing and Urban Affairs). (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Hunter doesn't see the renovations, which will use a green "passive housing" technology, as an example of gentrifying the North End.

"This project is not about gentrification," Hunter said at an announcement Tuesday. "This is about the preservation of deep affordability."

The high rise at 500 MacNab has been empty for a year because its units are in poor condition and in need of repair. But with a $21-million renovation, including $10 million from the national housing strategy, people will likely move into the 146-unit building in a year-and-a-half.

Will help people on minimum wage, but not social assistance

With the renovations, 500 MacNab won't be very affordable for social assistance recipients, says Laura Cattari. She's a campaign co-ordinator with the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction and board president of Canada Without Poverty.

If market rent is $1,100, 70 per cent of that is still $770, Cattari said. That may be better for a full-time minimum wage earner, but "those on social assistance will not be helped by this move."

But the federal and provincial investment is good, she said. So is having the units available for rent.

"The mix of incomes and rents in this building may help our building become more fiscally sustainable long term," she said.

The federal Liberal announcement came hours after the city held a housing summit to discuss Hamilton's lack of affordable housing. CHH is a city-owned agency, and Hamilton's largest social housing provider.

Long waiting list for social housing

Over the years, CHH toyed with the idea of selling 500 MacNab, citing the millions it would cost to renovate the aging building. Last year, agency announced a vast $63.3-million plan to renovate old units and build 45 net new units across Hamilton.

The province is also contributing to 500 MacNab through a joint federal-provincial agreement, and the city has committed $2.2 million. CHH has relocated tenants to other units across the city.

In its current state, 500 MacNab is mostly bachelor apartments. The newly renovated 500 MacNab will be 82 studio apartments and 64 one bedrooms. More of them (30) will also be accessible for people with disabilities.

The building will also use green technology that will save energy by 75 per cent and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 88 per cent, officials said Tuesday. It overlooks the west harbour, where the city is planning nine blocks of new townhouses and a waterfront park.

Hamilton's waiting list for people who need social housing is more than 6,000 households.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca


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