How can a low-income neighbourhood survive a housing boom?

Hamilton's historically working-class, immigrant-friendly North End is facing an influx of development, and leaders in the neighbourhood will discuss Friday ways to make sure the community remains welcoming and inclusive.

North End and Keith community leaders to discuss strategies Friday morning

Bayfront Park in the city's North End is part of the draw for developers and new residents to the neighbourhood. (Cory Ruf/CBC)

Rising house prices and an influx of development are coming to Hamilton's historically working-class, immigrant-friendly North End — and community members are meeting Friday to talk about ways to make it remains welcoming and inclusive.

A new waterfront development promises to bring 1,600 new condos, Bayfront Park has reinvigorated a former industrial site and the under-construction GO Station is often touted as a magnet for new businesses and homebuyers who may find the North End attractive for the first time. 

We want to ensure that the rising tide floats all boats, and that no one is left behind.- Elizabeth Beader, CEO, North Hamilton Community Health Centre

The effort to retain some of the traditional neighbourhood flavour is part of the reason he North Hamilton Community Health Centre commissioned a  study of changes and challenges in the North End and Keith neighbourhoods, said Elizabeth Beader, CEO of the centre.

Affordable housing is among the key issues identified in the report, being released Friday morning. It was conducted by Sara Mayo at the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton. The report profiles health risks, education and workforce issues and housing status for the neighbourhoods.

"We want to ensure that the rising tide floats all boats, and that no one is left behind," Beader said.

New waterfront condos promise to change the fabric of the North End, and how they're priced will be a "crucial issue," the study states.

Affordability will "determine whether that new neighbourhood becomes an expensive and exclusive enclave or if it joins other North Hamilton neighbourhoods and becomes an inclusive, mixed-income community, where everyone is welcome," the study states.

'Hamilton is poised to forge the way'

Development activity often "further marginalizes and alienates local residents," said Dwayne Cline, pastor at Hughson Street Baptist Church said. The Church partnered with the centre to commission the study. 

But the city and the community has a chance to change that, he said.

"Hamilton is poised to forge the way in which a city can navigate the development and changes of a neighbourhood so that those who are often most easily displaced are instead strengthened and seen as indispensable to the community," he said.

Among other key findings in the studyThe report sets the stage for a community discussion, also happening Friday morning, about what the neighbourhood's future will be, and about how stakeholders can and should push for a "balanced neighbourhood," she said.

  • North Hamilton saw a significant population decline between 1996 and 2011, a trend that could be reversed by the new development.

  • There is little "appropriate housing" for seniors in the Keith neighbourhood. Nearly all of the homes in Keith are older, single-family homes with "many stairs and high maintenance costs." And there is no social housing, and few rental apartment buildings, in the neighbourhood. 

  • As of 2011, almost half of the housing units in North End were rentals, compared with about one-third in the rest of the city. The majority of the rental units are in houses or duplexes that are not part of the city's formal rental inventory of buildings with six units or more. Those types of "secondary" rental units are "often at higher risk" from being eliminated from the housing market, sending renters looking for a new place to live.