The former Sir John A Macdonald secondary school site in Hamilton, Ontario.

When Delta Secondary School closed its doors in 2019, there were calls for the historically designated property to be converted to affordable housing.

Local politicians agreed. They wanted affordable housing.

The Hamilton Community Foundation put money on the table to finance a $4.7-million bid by Indwell to make a fair market value purchase.

A private developer, New Horizon Homes, outbid Indwell, paying nearly $15-million for the property.

The predictable public outcry occurred, the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board was widely criticized.

The HWDSB’s hands were tied because Ontario Regulation 444/98 requires that school properties sold on the open market must be sold to the highest bidder.

Now, 25 years after the regulation was created by the Ontario Progressive Conservative government of Premier Mike Harris, today’s Conservative government is considering prioritizing affordable housing for surplus school board properties.

“The first priority for surplus school board property would continue to be public education. A surplus property would first be assessed by the government as to whether it is needed by another school board for pupil accommodation,” reads a posting to Ontario’s Regulatory Registry.

“If the surplus property is not needed by another school board, it would be assessed by the government as to whether it is needed to address critical provincial priorities, such as long-term care and affordable housing.”

The government states school boards will still need to seek fair-market value for surplus lands.

Public comments regarding proposed changes are open until October 19.

Changes to Ontario Regulation 444/98 could enable the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board to sell the Sir John A Macdonald high school property in Downtown Hamilton to an affordable housing project.

The HWDSB Board of Trustees has repeatedly voted to seek community partnerships to redevelop the site into a community purpose hub that includes education, recreation, and affordable housing.

Currently, Regulation 444/98 makes this nearly impossible to archive.

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Published: October 13, 2023
Last edited: October 13, 2023
Author: Joey Coleman
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