Hamilton·Campaign Briefing

Is the Jamesville housing plan the best one for low-income families?

Two Ward 2 candidates are facing off on the future of 91 social housing units in the North End.

Also: the HCCI wants to know why you don't vote

Ward 2 candidates Jason Farr (left, incumbent) and Cameron Kroetsch disagree on whether a Jamesville social housing plan is good for the North End. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The Campaign Briefing appears three times a week leading up to the Oct. 22 election.

Two Ward 2 candidates are butting heads over whether a North End social housing plan is good for low-income families.

Cameron Kroetsch took aim at incumbent Jason Farr in a media release Thursday, saying the plans to develop the Jamesville site will lead to a net loss of social housing units — at least for now.

Of the 91 social housing units CityHousing Hamilton (CHH) owns at Jamesville, only 46 will be included in a new development with hundreds of private units. The remaining 45 will be part of a 55-unit development on a parking lot at Bay and Cannon. But that won't be built for years.

Kroetsch characterizes this as a net loss of social housing.

"There is no question about the urgent need for more affordable housing in Hamilton," Kroetsch said. "What I'm questioning is how we've managed to create a net loss of affordable housing when almost every candidate in this election is calling for more."

Farr, who sits on the CHH board, says it's not a net loss. He says it will actually be a net gain in affordable housing because the additional 10 units at Bay and Cannon will be market rent.

There are new ward boundaries this election. (City of Hamilton)

In late 2019, CHH will issue a request for proposals for developers to rebuild Jamesville. CHH will prioritize developers who offer to build even more affordable units.

"I understand and appreciate that some want to seek negative and/or counter claims respecting Jamesville's good new, mixed-income project," Farr said of Kroetsch's statement. "This is election time."

Jamesville is an important part of keeping the North End affordable for low-income families. And in a city where rents are moving skyward, housing advocates are watching.

CHH is renovating its aging 500 MacNab building (146 apartments). CHH has moved 64 Jamesville families to units in the east end or the Mountain ahead of the new development, said Tom Hunter, head of CHH.

With planned developments at Roxborough Park and 55 Queenston, Hunter said, the future will bring a city-wide net gain of 45 new units.

Ward 2 candidates, from left: Diane Chiarelli, Suresh Daljeet, Jason Farr, Cameron Kroetsch, Nicole Smith, Mark Tennant, John Vail. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

For Kroetsch and Farr's campaigns, though, nothing matters like the North End.

"We need better, more transparent, more resident-centered and more fiscally-savvy planning at CHH and council," Kroetsch said. "That is not what's happening now."

"We have been the most inclusive ward to date where affordable housing is concerned," Farr said. "This is not only in the North End, where currently 40 per cent of children are on or below the poverty line, but also throughout the ward."

Nicole Smith, Suresh DaljeetMark Tennant, James Unsworth, John Vail and Diane Chiarelli are also running.

Why don't you vote?

The Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion (HCCI) wants your opinion on why you do or do not vote. 

The centre is doing a municipal election study and wants a "snapshot of the electorate as they prepare to vote this month." The 13-question online survey takes five minutes.

As the HCCI points out, municipal government is relevant to voters, but it's the level where people are least likely to vote. Council handles drinking water, garbage pick up, transit and public health, "yet we know little about these contests."

HCCI will use the answers to organize focus groups around the city.

Learn more about the Ward 1 candidates

The Ainslie Wood Community Association sent 20 questions to candidates in Ward 1, and the answers are online. Among the subjects discussed: safe streets, economic development and rental housing.

Thirteen candidates are running in Ward 1. There is no incumbent.

Where to watch debates

Do debates help you decide your vote? Check these out:

Advance polls

Saturday is the last chance to vote in an advance poll. They're open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Find your advance poll.

All-candidates meetings

Ward 12

When: Monday, Oct. 15, 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.
Where: Meadowlands Fellowship Christian Reformed Church, 211 Stonehenge Dr., Ancaster
Who: Meadowlands Fellowship Christian Reformed Church. Event listing here.

Ward 1

When: Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2 p.m.
Where: MUSC atrium.
Who: McMaster University Students Union

Recent election stories

Social media

The city isn't reaching its goals when it comes to diverting waste from landfills. Council can do something about that. Laura Farr, Ward 3 candidate, talked about it on Facebook.

Farr (no relation to Jason Farr) is running against Tony LemmaKristeen Sprague, Keith Beck, Milena BaltaDan SmithNrinder NannAlain Bureau, Brendan Kavanaugh, Amanda SalonenSteven Paul Denault, Stephen Rowe and Ned Kuruc.

Matthew Green, outgoing Ward 3 councillor, is campaigning hard for Nann, who's running for the seat. Nann managed his 2014 municipal campaign.

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