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We like the North End and want to stay, residents tell social housing agency

CityHousing Hamilton is debating selling two North End properties and putting residents elsewhere. But 73 per cent say they don't want to move far.

Survey comes as CityHousing Hamilton debates selling two North End properties

A new CityHousing Hamilton survey shows the majority of tenants at 500 MacNab and Jamesville like the North End and want to stay there. Chad Collins, president of CityHousing Hamilton says, the agency is committed to doing that. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Residents of two major housing complexes are sending a clear message to Hamilton's social housing provider this week — wherever you put us, let us stay in the North End.

CityHousing Hamilton (CHH) is looking at selling its 500 MacNab high rise and Jamesville townhouse complex, two aging North End properties.

It's weighing using that money to build new social housing on Barton/Tiffany lands near the West Harbour GO station.

The agency surveyed 105 Jamesville and MacNab residents this month. Of those, 73 per cent like their neighbourhood and want to stay.

We will commit to try to bring everyone back to the neighbourhood.- Chad Collins, CityHousing Hamilton president

That sends a "strong message" as CHH makes some tough decisions, said Chad Collins, president and Ward 5 councillor.

It means as CHH develops temporary and permanent plans for the residents, it will try to keep them close to home.

"We will commit to try to bring everyone back to the neighbourhood," Collins said. "Our desire is to get everyone back to the west harbour who wants to be in the west harbour."

Right now, CHH only knows one thing for sure — money is tight. Aside from $1 million in emergency reserves, Collins said, "we don't have any money in the bank."

Meanwhile, 5,700 Hamiltonians are on the social housing wait list. 500 MacNab needs at least $6 million in repairs and Jamesville needs work too.

People are living in "substandard housing," Collins said. But without selling or using land the city already has, CHH can't afford to build better units.

People have roots here. They have a voice and options and feel like they're part of something.- Dwayne Cline, pastor and community volunteer

Hamilton's real estate market is hot right now and CHH hired Deloitte to look at how it can cash in on that.

Deloitte recommends selling Jamesville and 500 MacNab and doubling the number of units by building 400 at Barton/Tiffany, where the city bought land for a stadium that was never built there.

As for the neighbourhood loyalty, it doesn't surprise Dwayne Cline, a pastor at Hughson Street Baptist Church.

The North End has a strong sense of community, he said, and people with low incomes get a lot of support.

"People have roots here," he said. "They have a voice and options and feel like they're part of something."

'Shopping together at Food Basics'

Cline is part of a community group brainstorming options to present to CHH. He fears building 400 units together will ghettoize people. That goes against what the North End is, he said.

"There are people with PhDs and people not able to finish high school all living together," he said of the neighbourhood. "We're all going to the same health care centre and shopping together at Food Basics."

Collins doesn't want to segregate people either. That's a 1960s housing mentality, he said. 

"We'd like to see a mix of market rent or even affordable condominiums," he said.

CHH expects another Deloitte report with more options in the next two months.

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