#SharpieShenanigans ensue in retaliation to Hamilton Needs Housing postcard campaign

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Published September 21, 2021 at 10:10 pm

Hamilton households are receiving postcards from a developer-supported group called Hamilton Needs Housing, which wants the city's urban boundary expanded to allow for more residential and retail development. (Nathan Sager, InSauga)

With a stroke of a few pens, conservation-minded citizens are writing another chapter in Hamilton’s urban boundary review drama.

Hundreds, upon thousands of households and residential buildings in the city have been receiving large return-postage-paid fliers from a group called Hamilton Needs Housing. Described as a “future-minded” coalition, it is supported by at least nine companies involved in home building and development.

The postcards, which do not list a connection to the construction industry, ask people to add their name and contact info “to encourage City Council to adopt Option 1.” That would mean expanding the urban boundary of the city to allow for development on arable farmland.

The proposal to do so will come before the city’s general issues committee on Oct. 25. It has been opposed by environmental groups and a grassroots organization called Stop Sprawl HamOnt, who were successful in March in persuading the city to conduct an urban boundary survey.

The survey, conducted in the summer, asked residents whether they support Option 1 (Ambitious Density), Option 2 (No Urban Boundary Expansion) or Option 3 (Other Suggestions).

Last week, a staff report from planner Lauren Vraets revealed that more than 90 per cent out of more than 18,000 accepted responses selected Option 2. Only 6 per cent supported Option 1.

On Tuesday, GASP4Change (Grand[m]others Act To Save The Planet) began tweeting photos of handwritten responses to the pro-development postcards. Under the hashtag of #SharpieShenanigans, several people have scrawled their opposition to urban sprawl.

(The “in a trenchcoat” reference is a meme adapted from the animated Netflix dramedy “BoJack Horseman.”)

Response to the survey response?

The 13-page report by Vraets details methodological issues with the urban boundary survey. Those include issues with design, content and distribution, as well “difficulty in summarizing a complex topic on a two-sided sheet of paper.”

Another note mentions the ambitious density wording for Option 1 was “perceived as biased.” It adds the wording was “taken directly from the draft Land Needs Assessment which described a series of potential land need scenarios, as well as the Council direction from the March 29 General Issues Committee meeting.”

In a statement issued last weekend, Hamilton Needs Housing seemed to focus on “unscientific survey results with significant methodological problems.”

In full, it read;

“Hamiltonians are deeply concerned about the cost of housing in Hamilton. No Boundary Expansion will restrict the supply of housing, exacerbating the affordability crisis and causing families to leave Hamilton and ‘drive until they qualify.’ That’s why we support the City experts’ recommended approach, which will build up existing areas and allow for new areas to accommodate Hamilton’s projected growth.

“As the City staff pointed out in their report, the unscientific survey results released today have significant methodological problems. Support for the City’s balanced plan continues to grow, and every day we hear directly from Hamiltonians who want to move forward with the balanced plan that supports a range of housing options and positions Hamilton as a place all people, including young families, can afford to continue to call home.”

Nine companies are listed as coalition members on the group’s About Us page: Artstone Holdings Limited, Cardi Construction Limited, Corpveil Holdings Limited, DeSosio Homes, Marz Homes, Melrose Investments Inc., Multi-Area Developments Inc., New Horizon Development Group and Paletta International Corporation.

The aforementioned planning staff report also cross-referenced close to 90 per cent of the survey responses with postal code information.

The apparent intent was to offer “a close approximation of the survey results based on the 15 City Wards.” Although those tallies are informed estimates, the preference for Option 2 is very strong across all 15 electoral wards.

It ranges from 83.2 per cent support in Ward 6 (represented by Coun. Tom Jackson) to 95.2 per cent in Ward 1 (represented by Coun. Maureen Wilson).

Ward 9 has the highest support for Option 1 at 11.7 per cent. The least support for Option 1 is in Ward 1, at 2.4 per cent.

Climate concerns

There is little dispute that Hamilton has a housing affordability crisis that has been exacerbated by the lack of new family housing built in the second half of the 2010s. The city’s leadership is also expected to have a 30-year plan to meet Ford Government-set targets of a net increase of 236,000 people and 122,000 new jobs by 2051. Somehow, that will also have to balanced with adapting to an escalating climate crisis.

In an interview with InSauga in June, Dr. Mike P. Moffatt, the senior director of Smart Prosperity Institute, spoke about Hamilton’s housing and climate challenges. Moffatt explained that Hamilton will need “a way to build more family-friendly, more climate-friendly housing that’s affordable, (so it will) have better economic outcomes and environmental outcomes.”

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) raised the alarm about Ontario losing farmland to sprawl at unsustainable rates, threatening food security.

In May, the OFA released a study that said the province lost 70 hectares (175 acres) of farmland per week over a 20-year span from 1996 to 2016.

Most of that was gobbled up by houses on large lots, new roads, highways and retail.

 

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