Jamesville and 500 MacNab will remain social housing after all

It seems there will be no "ghetto" in north Hamilton. Residents feared there would be after a consultant report earlier this year recommended 400 affordable housing units on Barton/Tiffany.
CityHousing Hamilton will redevelop its Jamesville housing complex to include taller buildings and a mix of units and incomes. (CityHousing Hamilton)

It seems there will be no "ghetto" in north Hamilton after all.

CityHousing Hamilton (CHH) — the city's largest social housing agency — will renovate its existing tower in the west harbour area, and redevelop its Jamesville townhouse complex to accommodate the area's social housing needs.

And while that work is going on, CHH's portfolio management committee decided Friday, residents will be temporarily relocated.

That's a far cry from one of the options in a consultant's report earlier this year. Deloitte suggested selling the Jamesville and MacNab properties and having as many as 400 affordable housing units on the Barton/Tiffany lands.

That drew criticism from residents worried it would effectively ghettoize those in social housing.

"This is a lazy approach to development," said Dan Jelly, one of the founders of No Ghetto Hamilton, in March.

The city will keep 500 MacNab and renovate the building. (CityHousing Hamilton)

Instead, CHH will spend $6.5 million to renovate — not sell — its 500 MacNab St. tower. Right now, most of the 146 units are bachelor and studio apartments.

The move means that "we have maintained 146 units of affordable housing, which is, I think, great news," said Matthew Green, Ward 3 councillor and CHH vice-chair.

The future of Barton/Tiffany

CHH will also redevelop the area bounded by James Street North, Ferrie Street West, MacNab Street North and Strachan Street West — known as "Jamesville" — with housing that accommodates a mix of heights, densities, incomes and uses.

Chad Collins, Ward 5 councillor and CHH president, said if there is development on the Barton/Tiffany lands, it will be social housing combined with various other types of development.

"It's still eligible in the future to accommodate some housing, so it's still on a list of about half a dozen properties in the area," Collins said.

But any development there would include social housing, commercial properties, "people living in condos, people renting units in a private apartment building" and even "affordable home ownership."

Collins said the estimate to fix MacNab was lower than expected. The high-rise will need about $10.6 million in repairs to last the next 30 years.

'With those numbers, we can afford to keep it'

"With those numbers, we can afford to keep it."

Meanwhile, CHH will get expressions of interest from private developers for Jamesville.

Both developments are partially empty right now. The remaining tenants will be moved to temporary housing while renovations happen, Collins said.

CHH still doesn't have money to do all this. The agency, Collins said in February, is "land rich and cash poor," and unable to pay its mounting maintenance and repair bills.

Collins said the city will pursue more provincial and federal dollars for the plan.