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Ford says Hamiltonians will 'lose their minds' over 4-storey fourplexes, while city looks to build up

Doug Ford spoke at city hall in Hamilton on Friday.  (CBC News - image credit)
Doug Ford spoke at city hall in Hamilton on Friday. (CBC News - image credit)

Premier Doug Ford says Hamilton residents will "lose their minds" if a four-storey residence is built alongside single-dwelling homes.

The premier was at Hamilton city hall Friday to announce that the city was receiving over $17.6 million for exceeding its 2023 housing target and breaking ground on over 4,000 units.

But Ford also doubled down on his opposition to an Ontario Liberal proposal that would allow fourplexes — buildings split into four separate units — up to four storeys tall to be built on any parcel of urban land zoned for residential use.

"If I went up to Ancaster right in the beautiful community and threw a four-storey tower right beside homes, they'd lose their minds," Ford said. "Stoney Creek as well, Waterdown, I could keep naming everywhere in Hamilton, I will tell you one thing … [the neighbours] wouldn't stop screaming."

Ford said residents would lose backyard privacy, have less street parking available and face traffic congestion.

His comments come several months after CBC Hamilton reported the Ford government amended Hamilton's official plan in 2022 to allow an eight-storey condo in the heart of Ancaster, using a developer's exact wording for the amendment. The proposal was on land designated as mixed use. The province reversed the changes in 2023.

Vote on city staff housing proposal to come

On Friday, Ford said he isn't opposed to "nanny" or secondary suites being added within single family homes, or building four-storey buildings or taller near transit stations. He also said it should be left up to municipalities to decide where they want to build up density, rather than the province legislating it.

Ford's stance on fourplexes has been criticized by opposition parties and federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser, who said Ford is not doing enough to address the housing crisis.

Hamilton staff have pitched to councillors allowing triplexes and fourplexes in areas traditionally zoned for "low density" residential development. Their proposal recommends a height limit of three storeys.

Housing advocates, environmentalists and some urban planners in the city have also shown support in recent years for infill development that would build housing within the city's current urban boundary.

Multi-family homes, or fourplexes, would be filling the "missing middle" of the city's housing supply, said Brian Sibley, executive director of Hamilton East Kiwanis, a non-profit housing director. He spoke at a planning committee meeting in February.

Kiwanis owns a number of single-family homes and if it's allowed to convert them to fourplexes, it would increase its supply of affordable rental units by 300 per cent, with construction beginning in less than a year, Sibley said.

"The gentle increase in density will preserve neighbourhood character and not overtax existing infrastructure," he said.

Hamilton developers are generally supportive of staff's intensification plan, as well, said Michelle Diplock with the West End Home Builders' Association at the committee meeting.

Councillors supported staff's proposal and sent it to council for a final vote, which was delayed due to the recent ransomware attack, from which the city is still recovering.

"Not everyone can follow the previous blueprint where you move out, you get married and you buy a detached home, which is now out of reach," said Coun. Craig Cassar. "Having different kinds of housing options makes things more affordable."

Hamilton Mayor Andrea Horwath said the province's announcement of new funding for housing 'sends a signal' that it is listening.
Hamilton Mayor Andrea Horwath said the province's announcement of new funding for housing 'sends a signal' that it is listening.

Hamilton Mayor Andrea Horwath said the province's announcement of new funding for housing 'sends a signal' that it is listening. (CBC News)

Horwath and councillors have been outspoken critics of the province in the last year, highlighting provincial funding gaps that's forced the municipality to raise property taxes and dip into reserves.

On Friday, Horwath said she didn't get a chance to speak to Ford about these concerns "in any detail" but he's "always willing" to have those conversations.

She noted his announcement Thursday of $1.8 billion in new funding to help municipalities build homes sends a signal the province is listening.

"It's a live conversation that's continuing," the mayor said.