Q1: How tall is the building?
A1: Short answer: we can’t know yet. Building height has a significant impact on the character of any neighbourhood, so it is an issue of vital importance to the community. Through a continuing process of community engagement–in public meetings, one-on-one conversations with residents, and focus groups–we will be able to design to a height that is comfortable for the neighbourhood and satisfies the city’s zoning requirements. So, you will help us answer that question of how tall the building will be.
A related question was asked: does the city not set the height of the building in its zoning by-laws. In fact, the height constraints are unclear. We will have to negotiate height approvals through the zoning application process.
Q2: There are not many people providing housing for lower incomes. How do you make money at it?
A2: There is a growing number of investors who want to see social benefits come from the projects they put their money into. We put our own capital behind this development, and we also have the support of socially responsible investors. The project has to make business sense, but we don’t have to see the same level of financial return as conventional commercial developers.
Q3: How do you control speculation?
A3: This question was asked at the first meeting, and is obviously a topic of concern. We want to see homeowners’ equity grow with normal appreciation. Speculation–buying properties to flip them for a quick profit, or absentee ownership–can be very damaging to the natural growth of property values. We are working with our lawyers to prevent this kind of speculation. At the same time, we live in a free society where buying and selling homes is a normal, economically healthy activity. So we cannot be high-handed in dealing with this issue. But there will be controls on speculation.
Q4: How will building activity be policed to control noise and disruption?
A4: This question also came up at the first meeting. We are creating an opportunity for residents to save costs and personalize their space by finishing the internal construction themselves. We will be designating “zones” in the building for residents who choose finished units and those who will be improving unfinished units.
Q5: How will you determine parking requirements if you don't know how many units are in the building?
A5: First, we will examine how other similar projects in our area – for example the Guise Street CoOp – to learn what ratios of units to parking spaces they are currently using to see if these work. Then we will negotiate with the City regarding that ratios that would be required on our site. Finally, we will estimate the maximum number of parking spaces that can be provided on our site, assuming a single level below ground and some parking at grade, and then we will determine how many units can be created assuming this number of parking spaces. Throughout, we will be emphasizing our proximity to Bus Transit, north and south on James Street, and our proximity to the new GO West Harbourfront Hub, and its connection with the new Hamilton LRT (thus reducing the necessity of our owners to need a personal car).
Q6: Is there potential for ideas of co-housing in the development?
A6: The flexibility of the floor plate of the building could work well for groups looking at co-housing options. We suggest reaching out to us to discuss how this might work.
Q7: Are you going to offer financial assistance other than down payment assistance?
A7: We are currently assessing the financial needs of residents and prospective homebuyers to determine the full range of financial assistance they may require. Our goal is to design a financing program that is responsive to the actual need in the community, and as such we will be looking at many types of financing support.
We will be organizing one-on-one and group sessions in the coming months specifically related to homebuyer financing. These sessions will be an opportunity for community members to help us more deeply understand the types of financial assistance required, which we will then use to inform the design of our financing program. We will report on our progress in designing a solution at our monthly community meetings.
Q8: How is soundproofing managed in there are no concrete walls between units?
A8: Demisable walls are to be constructed to OBC standard for soundproofing between units. Not every condo building has concrete walls between units.
Q9: Can I build a two storey unit?
A9: We are in the process of determining this.
Q10: How will you maintain a building standard if people are building their own units?
A10: All buildings must be built to abide by certain laws and regulations. In this case, the City of Hamilton Property Standards By-Law and the Ontario Building Code are two main laws that govern the appropriate design and standards of buildings in Hamilton.
All aspects of the building, be it foundations, or hallways, or stairs, or bathrooms and kitchens must meet these standards if it is to be considered legal and code compliant. Our building will meet or exceed all of these standards.
We will work with owners to ensure that any alterations remain code compliant and have the proper approvals by the relevant authority. We are working closely with the City’s Chief Building Official to discuss this very issue and we are developing a Building Permit process that addresses these concerns and ensures that all improvements are built in conformance with the OBC
Q11: Where is the sales centre?
A11: When we are ready to sell, Home:Front (468 James Street North) will be the sales centre.
Q12: Has this been done before? Can you provide precedents?
A12: Yes. similar projects have been developed recently in Holland and Germany that seek to offer flexible units to a wider range of incomes.
In addition, the development of Hamilton between 1900 and 1950 allowed households to purchase varying sizes of serviced lots that could be built out by their owners over time, as household needs changed and higher levels of servicing were introduced. Families collaborated to build a wide variety of homes in East Hamilton and Stoney Creek.
Q1: How do we propose to prevent speculation (including absentee owners and investors)?
A1: JvNd is working with a law firm to find the most effective way to prevent speculation in our Projects – such as buying an unfinished unit at a low price, then “flipping” the ownership to someone else. Our priority is to promote ownership among the residents of the North End.
Q2: What is “coFinancing”?
A2: coFinancing is JvNd’s way of helping our buyers achieve homeownership. We have designed a coFinancing program that assists homebuyers to reduce both the down payment they need to save up for, and the monthly mortgage payments they will need to pay on their new home.
coFinancing, and other forms of sharing or splitting the cost of owning a home, have increased in popularity as housing costs have risen. coFinancing allows two or more households to pool their savings or assets to buy a home together. This may also take the form of creating a rental unit for an additional household. Typically, each household has equity in at least part of building, and they can split these parts up in a wide variety of ways – to accommodate change over time.
How our coFinancing program works:
- JvNd works with homebuyers to determine how much down payment they can afford.
- JvNd tops-up the homebuyer’s equity to bring the total down-payment to a minimum of 20%.
- The Homebuyers then apply for a mortgage. They can work with any lender they choose, or they can apply to JvNd’s coFinancing Fund. With the increased down-payment, we substantially reduce the size of the mortgage and the amount of the monthly mortgage payments that homebuyers will need to make.
- Once the mortgage is secured, homebuyers complete the purchase of their homes and prepare to move in.
- As homebuyers pay off their mortgage, their share of equity in the home increases relative to JvNd’s equity.
Q3: What is the current ratio of owners to renters in the North End Neighbourhoods?
A3: The answers below have been extracted from the “Profile of North Hamilton (April 2015) – Census Tracts CT 0066.00 CT 0064.00 and CT 0063.00”
Owner Households: 54%
Renter households: 46%
Unaffordable Housing: Renters (proportion of tenants spending 30% or more of their household income on shelter costs): 44%
Unaffordable Housing: Owners (proportion of owners spending 30% or more of their household income on shelter costs): 17%
Average Monthly Cost of occupied units, including market units and social housing: $720
Median Rental Cost of available market rent units ($ not adjusted for inflation): $95
Q4: How many households that are currently renting in the North End neighbourhoods would be able to afford a new home in one of JvNd’s condominiums?
A4: This will take a little more work on our side to determine. We are currently analyzing existing incomes and their distribution across the North End. We are also reviewing the 2016 Census to see what we can learn from it.
Our preliminary analyses indicate that somewhere between 30-40% of all rentor-households (i.e. 15% – 20% of All Households in the North End neighbourhoods) were in a position to purchase a new home in 2012.
Q5: What do we mean by “work with the Community” or “…giving priority to the neighbourhood”?
A5: For JvNd, this means that existing residents in the North End neighbourhoods will see the first presentation of the new housing options that we propose to develop in the North End neighbourhoods. We also intend to conduct individual one-on-one interviews with North End households that may be interested in knowing if they can own one of our units.
Q6: If some people are buying homes that are fully finished and others are completing the construction of theirs – how will they be able to live peacefully side-by-side?
A6: Our goal is to create a building that is a living part of the North End – one that develops as the North End develops. Designing a building like this means that that house needs to be both adaptable (to change) and enjoyable to live in at the same time. As such, the building will combine purchasing a new and fully-finished home with those you prefer to develop gradually, investing more time or money in the house when they are ready to – a new sort of “fixer-upper.”
JvNd’s first step is to plan, design and then construct the SME (Structural-Mechanical-Electrical) Frame and the exterior walls of the building in order to:
- Define the “lots” that will available to purchase
- Anticipate and accommodate current needs and future changes – in a logical and affordable manner. For example, in consultation with each household, we will ensure that certain walls can be either moved or removed; or that kitchen sinks, appliances or toilets can be added or subtracted from a unit, at the owner’s discretion, and in ways that are permitted by applicable building regulations. JvNd will assist homeowners in securing a Building Permit when one is required
- Present you with a choice of different plans + designs (which have been pre-approved by the City’s Building Department) to legally subdivide your new home if you wish to share or rent out part of
Second, we will start the occupancy and/or construction so as to separate those purchasing completely finished homes, from those who select partially–finished homes, from those who start with unfinished homes. These may be allocated to separate floors – that is, finished on the uppermost floors; partially-finished homes in the centre of the building, and unfinished homes nearest the ground.
This sort of “interior zoning’ is similar to how many existing condominiums currently operate – except in a JvNd building, owners will be able not only to buy a fully completed condominium home but also decide to reduce starter costs by finishing or completed their homes themselves. Our goal in this Phase is to minimize intrusion and to assist people in finishing their home – as they see fit, and in accord with a pre-determined schedule. The public walks and corridors on the Ground Floor will be fully completed to provide full fire access and egress from point of initial occupancy. The same will be true for other shared spaces – laundry room, recreation club, etc.
Finally, there will be agreed-on daily construction times – to be set by the building’s Condo Board, in consultation with all homeowners. These regulations will be similar to the noise bylaws that are currently applied throughout the GGH Region. Appropriate guidelines will be agreed to by the Condo Board (managed by you and/or your neighbours) with penalties decided, costed and agreed on by all existing homeowners, enabled through the Condo Board.