68 townhouses on the Mountain are being converted to condos
CBC News
By Samantha Craggs
20 January 2017

City councillors have approved the conversion of 68 townhouses from rental to condo units at 515 Queen Victoria Dr. (Google)

Amid tight rental market, 29 downtown apartments to be converted to condos

For some, converting 68 rental townhouses to condos in Hamilton Mountain's Quinndale neighbourhood is cleaning up an area in disrepair. But a housing advocate worries it's another example of low-income people losing more affordable places to rent.

'The pride of home ownership is important is well.'
—Tom Jackson, Ward 6 councillor

City council's planning committee approved a plan this week to convert 68 townhouses at 515 Queen Victoria Dr. into condos.

The plan includes renovating and upgrading the property, which has been "not in a good state of repair over the years," said Coun. Tom Jackson of Ward 6.

The plan also gives the tenants of the units—36 two bedroom, 30 three bedroom and two four-bedroom rentals—first option to buy. Those who don't want to buy can stay as renters for as long as they want. Eighty-one per cent of the current tenants support the conversion.

It's a good solution for a property that needed attention, Jackson said. New owner First Rock Properties Ltd. wants to improve the units, he said. And the residents are happy.

"When I have someone who has come along and bought the property and says they want to upgrade it and improve it for the lives of families there and for the neighbourhood in general, I'm definitely open minded and want to be supportive of that," he said, adding that First Rock held an extra public meeting on the file.

'Best of both worlds'
"It's the best of both worlds," he said. "The pride of home ownership is important is well."

'Whenever we take something out of the market, we're limiting housing choices.'
—Renee Wetselaar, affordable housing advocate

But others say there's more to the story. Renee Wetselaar, co-ordinator of Hamilton's Affordable Housing Flagship, said this is part of an ongoing Hamilton trend to convert rentals to condo units. It's the first time she's seen it happen with townhouses.

"Whenever we take something out of the market, we're limiting housing choices," she said.

Hamilton's hot housing market has led to more conversions. It's been such an issue, in fact, that the city issued a moratorium on condo conversions in 2015.

The two-year moratorium has finished. And vacancy rates are 3.8 per cent right now — above the two per cent threshold that prompts a moratorium. Hamilton's official plan also allows conversions if 75 per cent of residents agree to them.

Past problems with the property
The issue in such cases is making sure tenants have the right information about their units before they buy, said Tom Cooper, director of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction.

"We've heard time and time again situations where people purchased condos and weren't necessarily aware of the fact that repairs needed to be done."

Historically, the area around 515 Queen Victoria Dr. has not been without its problems.

In late 2015, for example, a taxi driver was robbed at knife point near there. In 2007, a fight over $80 led to a murder.

City council will cast a ratification vote on Jan. 25.

Ray Truant
Be careful, very careful. Older buildings around Hamilton in need of significant infrastructure repair are being flipped to condos, where the liability is now on the condo owner.

So, landlords facing a big bill are cashing out in this bubble with a little paint and spackle and letting the condo corporation take the hit on big repairs. When you buy an old building, you buy the risk of an old building.

This happened on the Main West apartment buildings when they went condo, the building needed a major repair to the parking garage structure and the real estate lawyers missed this, dropping at $10,000 bill on condo owners (EACH), and neither the condo seller, the real estate agents nor the lawyers were liable for the error.

Condos seem like a good idea until stuff goes wrong, and there are no laws to protect the condo owner because Real Estate agents can legally lie and not disclose a known problem.

Of course, Jackson likes this idea, it means more taxes with no more services.

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