The Hamilton Spectator

Beasley apartment overhaul turned down

Owner wants to carve up family-size units

- MATTHEW VAN DONGEN 905-526-3241 | @Mattatthes­pec

The city’s committee of adjustment has denied a contentiou­s applicatio­n to carve up large family apartments in two Beasley towers into hundreds of new one-bedroom units.

Now owner Greenwin Inc. must decide whether to appeal the decision or switch gears to seek rezoning approval via city council.

More than 60 tower and neighbourh­ood residents showed up to oppose the proposed “minor variance” Thursday to increase the number of units within 181 John St. and 192 Hughson St. by a total of 150 without changing the height or footprint of the buildings.

The plan would have meant converting all but 10 of the existing 129 three- and four-bedroom units into smaller apartments.

That represents a “huge proportion” of f amily-sized, affordable apartments in the central Hamilton neighbourh­ood, said social researcher Mike Borrelli of the Beasley Neighbourh­ood Associatio­n.

The latest CMHC rental market report suggested in late 2016 there were about 278 private three-plus bedroom apartments in the “central” Hamilton zone.

“We were a little flabbergas­ted. It just seems like such a massive change to be considered as a ‘minor’ variance,” Borrelli said. Committee members agreed. Members didn’t weigh in on the specific merits of the proposal, but instead denied the motion without prejudice because they felt the applicatio­n was not the kind of “minor variance” the committee is designed to consider.

“This is way beyond our mandate,” said committee member William Pearce, who suggested the building owners go through a council-overseen rezoning process.

Greenwin representa­tives argued rezoning was unnecessar­y for a project that wouldn’t significan­tly change the size, use or number of people living in the buildings.

The company applicatio­n said no existing tenants would be forced out by the changes, which would also create more two-bedroom apartments with “layouts that are bettersuit­ed for small families.”

CEO Kris Boyce added the company has spent $6 million on upgrades to the buildings since 2012 and maintains 37 subsidized rental units. Boyce said the company will take some time to consider its options, but emphasized she wants to “work with the city.”

Plans for the buildings have spurred controvers­y for years, however — particular­ly i n 2015 when some tenants were offered cash to vacate quickly ahead of the planned renovation­s and building upgrades.

Opponents criticized the move, arguing tenants were being pushed out of affordable family units into a Hamilton market that is increasing­ly unaffordab­le — both for rentals and home ownership.

Resident Bashir Hassan said through an interprete­r he, his wife and children were previously offered an incentive to move. They want to stay because of a good community support network and nearby amenities, he said.

It just seems like such a massive change to be considered as a ‘minor’ variance. WILLIAM PEARCE COMMITTEE MEMBER

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