Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Monday September 26, 2016
Encroaching Monster Homes
Communities change whether we like it or not. The question of whether they change for better or worse is a matter of opinion and interpretation.
Meanwhile, growing pains are inevitable no matter how a community evolves. Sometimes, unchecked sprawl outward can lead to unaffordable costs for services in future. Sometimes, unplanned growth upward can lead to inner city problems – anything from increased traffic to a lack of sunlight. Sometimes infill projects are simply out of place.
So there’s nothing wrong with considered management of change and thoughtful care in planning and redevelopment.
But too many homeowners are needlessly concerned with sameness in their communities. And too many are unwilling to accept change as inevitable.
Just because a community is built with similar homes, on identical lots with homogenous landscaping, doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.
So the current debate in places such as Ancaster about the appropriateness of so-called “monster” homes in already well-to-do neighbourhoods may be a useful exercise, but residents and the city will need to remind themselves that the status quo will never be acceptable.
After all, the lots in that area are already huge by most people’s standards, and the existing houses are not exactly small, no matter how you measure it.
Humanity’s desire for something ever bigger, ever better is unlikely to be quelled by upset neighbours, well-meaning council representatives or dialogue, however useful, at a town-hall meeting.
Neither are such forces restricted to places like Ancaster. Downtown Hamilton, indeed downtowns everywhere, are facing a massive influx of new residents with new ideas and new needs.
Gentrification has somehow become a dirty word, but in fact it is neither bad nor good. It simply is inevitable. We can do our best as community builders to accommodate social housing, create mixed-use communities, and make neighbourhoods welcoming to everyone, but we cannot stop those who can afford it from fixing up old houses and making them unaffordable for low-income renters.
We can restrict heights, plan for careful placement and perhaps even design of high-rise towers, not stop condominiums from being built downtown. Indeed, such intensification is necessary if we are to continue to keep taxes affordable.
Hamilton, as much and probably more than most cities in the current era, is facing tumultuous change which many oppose simply because it is change. If Hamilton is to continue to thrive as a city and ride the current wave of prosperity that is upon us, we must all embrace change – and embrace the future. (Source: Hamilton Spectator Editorial)