I read with great interest Monday’s story in The Spec about a group of St. Claire neighbours working together to buy, clean-up and renovate a run-down apartment on their street. This amazing grassroots effort is exactly the type that Hamilton’s renaissance is built on. One building at a time, neglected properties are bought up and injected with some much needed TLC by new and long-time residents determined to improve their neighbourhoods. These drivers of Hamilton’s renaissance do not betray Hamilton’s reputation as a collaborative, tenacious and hard-working community.
Though this has been the story for quite some time, a new story of change is emerging, one that we should be much more wary of. While it is hard to pin-down the exact moment when it happened, it is clear the real estate market has hit a tipping point. The new story of change is characterized by bidding wars, apartments being cleared of low-income residents, and low-income neighbourhoods struggling to survive the housing boom. Tenants are rallying tonight at McLaren Park to bring attention to displacement, one of the grave yet unintended consequences of the grassroots re-investment.
As these unintended consequences add-up, it is clear that something needs to be done, and it needs to be done very soon, before it is too late. We can celebrate re-investment while demanding more than just an inflow of capital into the city. We can demand healthy and inclusive neighbourhoods that are sustainable and affordable. Better yet, we can build them ourselves. That is the Hamilton way.
That is why we are building the Hamilton Community Land Trust, a lengthy and difficult but worthwhile initiative. Property by property we will work to remove land from the real estate market, making sure that it is used to meet community needs like high-quality affordable housing. Most importantly, we are committed to keeping that land in community ownership generation after generation, no matter what happens to the market.
Like the neighbours on St. Claire, we believe that ownership is power, and we are building a non-profit that will enable all Hamilton residents to participate. Hamilton’s story of change is still being written, and this is not a community that will stand by and let it be written for us. Join us in owning Hamilton’s future, together.