Landlords face new battle in hottest rental market

City council for one of Ontario’s largest markets may have just set a precedent with dangerous ramifications for investors in student housing – both there and across the province.

It will cost the City of Hamilton as much as $5,000 a day to have an expert fight just one landlord’s plan to convert a single-family home into a 15-bedroom boarding house, but it’s worth it, says Ward 1 Councillor Aidan Johnson.

"If we can establish a binding legal precedent that bad student housing is contrary to planning principles, then that's a major legal weapon," Johnson told the CBC.

Last week, council voted to hire an outside planner to represent its opposition to that re-zoning request before the Ontario Municipal Board. The hope is a win there – with that heavy firepower on side – will lead to a decision that can then be cited in other similar cases to come.

That kind of success would have serious implications for the thousands of property investors who’ve bought in Hamilton over the last two years, attracted by the city’s expanding university and college footprint, but also its stock of affordable larger homes, ripe with cash-flow potential.

Those property buyers are credited with pumping tens of millions of dollars into the local economy each year. At the same time, they’ve reinvigorated blighted neighbourhoods and provided affordable housing for thousands of young people.

Winning council support, however, remains a challenge, say landlord associations. They’re now weighing what support they will extend to members preparing for their own day in court over renovation plans meant to broaden Hamilton’s affordable student housing segment.

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