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#CripTheVote: Responses from mayoral candidate Michael Pattison on Poverty, Gentrification & Housing

1. Welcome, and thanks for joining us. Please introduce yourself!

Hello. My name is Michael Pattison. I am a lifelong Hamilton resident, I live in Ward 1, I am self-employed, I have two daughters and 1 step-daughter, and I am running for Mayor of the Greater City of Hamilton.

2. A recent article in The Hamilton Spectator notes that, “The usual concern is that [gentrification] may cause displacement and prevent lower-income households from moving into an area that might have suited them.”

It goes on to state that, “Hamilton is not in that position, yet, not even close. There are still many neighbourhoods, in the Lower City and also on the Mountain, that contain housing that is relatively affordable, relative, that is, to other areas in the city.”

Disabled people frequently have specific access and accommodation needs. How might gentrification within a particular neighbourhood affect them differently than it does non-disabled people? How can we ensure that analyses of gentrification are accounting for the specific access needs and experiences of disabled residents?

The amount of accessible housing is already at a bare minimum. Gentrification forces people to relocate and accessible housing is not being addressed properly due to circumstances of costs regarding specialty infrastructure and fixtures. We need to launch a full scale knowledge based assessment of the requirements under the Accessibility Act that needs to be in full compliance by 2025.

We need to create the list of what is required to make Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities, and make it public. Everyone in this city should know the parameters of what it will take to move us forward to achieving all requirements within the Act. 2025 is only 7 years away. If we wish to see progress, allow all business, etc. the time to plan how to make proposed changes to their respective buildings/businesses at their pace allowing for planning and capital expenditures, before we can get into enforcement sometime around 2023/2024.

3. In addition to the limited availability of affordable housing, lack of accessible housing makes it even more difficult for disabled people living in poverty to find a place to live.

If elected, what steps would you take to increase the availability of accessible and affordable housing in Hamilton?

We need real time outside the box thinking. Laneway homes, zoning changes for existing homes that can be divided, exciting ideas like container homes built with architectural style. These types of solutions are the way forward.

My biggest thought on affordable, geared to income and accessible housing starts with a housing registry. I realize some people hate it when government sticks their nose in, but I want to paint a clearer picture. People must start believing in taxation again. The type where you trust your politicians, knowing your money is being well invested and sooner, rather than later, becomes reciprocal to the taxpayer.

As an example, look at it this way; if homeowners were to register and follow the environmental and safety guidelines of truly adequate and up to current standards housing, the city would be able to help match them with tenants. Now, if said tenants (and homeowners) were up to date with their taxation filings (all levels), we could theoretically begin a reciprocal process of covering $300/month to help alleviate the tenants’ financial burden of rent, while giving the homeowner a $3,000 break on their property taxes. So, we still see a yearly tax payment from homeowners of $600 (to cover the increased usage of services), on top of whatever the difference is depending on their property taxes minus the $3,000 tax incentive. So not including the start up costs of the housing registry, we could help 10,000 residents find homes for a city investment of $36 million dollars (really 30 million with homeowners only truly getting $10M subsidized for 10 months). Seems like a drop in the hat when digesting the overall city budget breakdown. I’ve done my best to put this into a spreadsheet below.

The best way forward is long term rentals that allow tenants to become part of their community while respecting and appreciating the homeowner. If any issues arise in dispute regarding properties and tenants, there is a standards checklist that the homeowner is completely responsible for, putting some pressure on renters who, if negligent, will eventually expose themselves as being a bad tenant. If eventually (hopefully), we had GBI, this equation becomes even stronger and really rewards both parties. Homeowners could invest their portion in housing stock and renters could have an even better chance to succeed.

4. Disabled persons seeking to rent from private landlords often face discrimination because of their access needs (e.g., service animals) or because they do not have regular employment income. This can make it difficult or impossible to access housing through the private market. Often this discrimination is not stated explicitly, which can make it difficult to challenge through existing systems.

If elected, what steps would you take to protect disabled tenants from housing discrimination?

As a contractor who has helped make living spaces more accessible for friends and clients with disabilities, I understand both their complex needs and the pushback they face from property owners and their unwillingness to make accommodations or hap hazard and insufficient efforts to make their living spaces more attuned to their individual needs.

Grants are available for homeowners to retrofit their units into accessible spaces, but the money should be available to the homeowner during the build or absolutely guaranteed the day the space is available. Wait times to receive the grants can take quite some time to receive which adds undo financial stress on the private owner. Grants should be given a conditional guarantee before construction or renovations begin as grants can run dry or timelines expire.

5. Disabled people in precarious living situations often have difficult accessing support and crisis services, both because of the inaccessibility of the services themselves, and because community outreach workers lack expertise in disability justice issues (as well as other, intersecting forms of marginalisation).

What are some things the city of Hamilton could do to improve the availability of disability-informed community support services?

There is a lot of education and reframing of understanding that is needed to improve the availability of disability-informed community support services. It goes beyond just accessibility, although this is needed, to a greater understanding of disability justice issues and how ableism intersects with other “isms”- ageism, racism, etc. Hamilton needs to work on all of these areas throughout its community support services through creating mixed-ability community spaces, providing services that can be accessed in a multitude of ways, ensuring that staff (and citizens!) are educated and informed about disability justice.

I would work closely with the Disability Justice Network of Ontario to first learn as much as I can about where we can improve all of our services and then develop programming that is supportive, sustainable, and inclusive to all.

6. As in the case of long-term housing, inaccessibility of homeless shelters, emergency and short-term housing are an additional barrier to disabled people facing homelessness.

How would you work to ensure increased availability of accessible crisis housing in Hamilton?

In 2015, the Hamilton Public Board offered it’s empty schools for temporary housing of Syrian refugees.

We could look at these empty spaces yet valuable community assets, as options to address our short or even long term accommodation needs as we struggle to keep up with affordable and accessible housing stock, while we look at initiatives like a housing registry or other ideas to bridge our ever growing housing gap.

7. Poverty and homelessness can themselves be disabling, as a result of trauma, lack of access to non-acute healthcare, and unsafe living conditions.

What are some strategies Hamilton could implement to reduce these effects, and to help people who have dealt with poverty and homelessness in managing their trauma?

No strategies come to mind at this time as I must fully understand the breadth of these issues before commenting. I look forward to seeing others thoughts on these barriers by following #CriptheVote.

8. Keeping in mind that some disabled people are unable to work, and that working should not be a requirement for people to enjoy a good quality of life – there are also some disabled people who actively seek employment, but are unsuccessful due to discrimination from employers.

As in the case of housing, this discrimination is often not explicit, but reveals itself in the patterns of responses disabled jobseekers receive when they are able to choose not to disclose their disabilities, versus when they do.

Moreover, the employment protections offered by the AODA are very limited, and do not directly address issues of discrimination.

What are some initiatives Hamilton could undertake to address ableist discrimination against jobseekers and employees, and to increase employment for disabled people who are seeking to work?

It always begins with education, and there are some good organizations that work to educate employers - the Ontario Disability Employment Network (ODEN) and Canadian Business Sensibility are two of the larger ones. Hamilton could certainly play a greater role in launching its own educational initiatives to educate and inform employers in order to reduce and eliminate the ableist discrimination that people with disabilities face.

Building capacity within our systems so that they move beyond just access to employment is key. Accessibility is a big part of the equation and advocacy is as well.

9. Our next chat, taking place this Wednesday, will focus on the topic of transportation. What role (if any) do you envision for public transit in mediating the impact of gentrification, and how might this apply to disabled residents in particular?

We need a transportation system in Hamilton that ensures everyone can explore, shop, and access employment equally across the City. Noone should be at a disadvantage because they either choose to not partake in our car culture, or have no choice in their available method of transport whether due to age or physical/mental abilities.

As well, no person should be left waiting as transit passes them by because of capacity or accessibility issues.

It’s not enough to say we have transit whether it be HSR, LRT, BRT, Darts, School Buses, or otherwise. Transit has to be efficient. It has to be accessible. It must be a positive experience for all.


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