Ontario’s mayors haven’t been shy to use their new(ish) strong mayor powers – and Andrea Horwath is no exception. Late last week, the Hamilton mayor announced the move – which gives mayors the ability to veto City Council decisions – as a last resort to convert a current city-owned Stony Creek parking lot into affordable housing. On March 27, Horwath took to X to announce that she had submitted a Notice of Intent to veto a bylaw pertaining to two existing properties at 5 and 13 Lake Avenue South in the Hamilton community.

The fate of the real estate has been up for debate for weeks. In attempt to make a small dent in Hamilton’s housing affordability crisis, Horwath wants to allow a non-profit organization to build on the land – a move that would create 67 affordable units in downtown Stoney Creek. But, while pretty much everyone can agree that the affordable housing situation is dire, some say available parking in the downtown core is important, too, pointing to local businesses that rely on it. The new homes would mean losing 57 of the 162 parking spots on the lot.

So, the City recently decided to keep the parking lots in place, with a split 8-8 vote last Wednesday. In short, Horwath wasn't happy. "Leveraging municipally owned properties for the construction of sorely needed affordable housing is a vital step towards addressing the pressing and urgent crisis of housing affordability and homelessness in our city," she said in her statement.

The Housing Sustainability and Investment Roadmap was unanimously supported by council late last year and plans to add 150 permanent dwellings that were geared toward the region’s low-income residents. A key element to it is the use of municipal lands for affordable housing. As such, Horwath says that her decision to exercise her use of the Strong Mayor Power aligns with the roadmap. However, she stresses that the choice is not one she takes lightly.

In her statement, Horwath highlighted the bleak reality that over 1600 people in Hamilton currently find themselves without homes. With that said, critics say there are plenty of other places to construct affordable housing. An online petition opposing development on the site calls the existing parking lot "well utilized" and expresses concern about "the lack of consultation, the selection process, and most importantly, the community harm that this hasty decision will create." It highlights the parking lots importance for local businesses, residents, accessibility needs, and even as a venue for things like farmers' markets and community festivals.

"Furthermore, we are concerned that no information/studies have been provided showing the non-transparent process and criteria used to select Stoney Creek sites as being better suited than all other possible sites in the entire City of Hamilton," reads the petition. "Furthermore, unlike other possible sites, the Stoney Creek site is nowhere near the LRT , where development is supposed to be prioritized. Distance from the LRT decreases affordability and increases reliance on more automobiles and more parking demand."

As for Horwath, the mayor submitted formal veto documentation on March 28. From that date, council will have 21 days to vote to accept or refuse her veto, with a veto requiring a 2/3 majority. After 21 says, Horwath says she’ll then bring the matter back to council, at which time it will require 1/3+1 majority to pass.

In the meantime, the City of Hamilton remains focused on its agenda to build more homes quickly, and the Ford government recently stepped in to help with more than $17.5M – a reward for exceeding 2023 housing targets.

Affordable Housing