Emotions run high at packed special planning meeting
Cheers, jeers, tears and catcalls filled City Hall as councillors grappled with whether to license illegal apartment units.
At a special planning committee meeting Tuesday afternoon, councillors delayed a decision on a draft bylaw to regulate buildings with one to six rental units, a plan that would initially add $650,000 to city coffers and require 17 new staff.
Staff says up to 30 per cent of rental units in converted Hamilton homes are considered “illegal” under the city’s zoning bylaws, which govern how many units are acceptable in a given building.
But landlords, poverty advocates and tenants warned councillors that licensing the city’s illegal apartments will mean hundreds of Hamiltonians are left without affordable housing.
As a result, councillors on the planning committee referred the draft bylaw back to city staff for further research, especially with regard to student housing.
Thirty delegates signed up to speak at the meeting, most of them coming out against the city’s plan.
For five hours, the large crowd applauded, called out, and at one point even hissed at Councillor Terry Whitehead when he asked the cochairs of the Affordable Housing Flagship — a consortium of more than 20 public- and private-sector partners who work together to create opportunities for affordable housing — whether they “condone” illegal apartments.
One delegate who chose not to give her name struggled through tears as she told councillors about her struggles with housing and homelessness. She said she would rather live in an illegal unit than be forced to live in her car.
“I don’t care if I have mould; I don’t care if I have one plug; if it means me being safe,” she said.
Conrad Zurini, a realtor and cochair of the Affordable Housing Flagship, agreed that instituting the bylaw would unfairly penalize tenants.
“I think it’s the wrong tool and the wrong time,” he said. “This is a barrier to creating rental housing that will just be passed on to tenants.”
Cameron Nolan, president of the Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington, argued the draft bylaw duplicates laws already in place.
“The key reason for this bylaw and this process is the health and safety of tenants,” he said. “Tenants are well protected by the landlord and tenant board, and they’re well protected by the fire code. This is redundant.”
But Kenneth Sherman, who owns a house on Dromore Crescent near McMaster University that’s rented to students, says he sees the effects of rogue apartments in his area — and the safety risks that come with them.
“In the Westdale neighbourhood, I’ve watched three fires come down,” he said.
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Original artircle found here http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/852060–strong-opposition-to-licensing-illegal-apartment-units