April 12, 2012

Expropriation - a new tool to address problem properties in Hamilton

Hamilton City Council voted yesterday to expropriate the City Motor Hotel.

It’s a significant and precedent setting vote – it’s the first time our city government is using the expropriation process as a means to solve a property standards (crime) issue.

Matt Jelly asked yesterday why the City is not using expropriation to deal with toxic sites and other properties with known danger to the public.

Could this be the next front of expropriation?

What about properties with owners who wish to abandon their properties? The present method of abandonment is tax arrears. The owner allows the city to seize the property after years of not paying properties taxes and is left with nothing but gains the lost of a headache property in the process.

If they instead allow the property to become a haven of crime, does this lead to an expropriation and the property owner walking away with fair market value?

There is no doubt that something needed to be done about the City Motor Hotel – the problems there and caused in the surrounding neighbourhood are well documented – and the community is relieved to know their long nightmare is nearing an end.

The city will soon own a property to redevelop. There is some discussion about “private developers” eventually being involved in the redevelopment. While this could happen, the ownership will likely remain with the city – any attempt to sale the property must begin with an offer to the previous owner. (Section 42 of the Expropriations Act)

It’s a new frontier – let’s hope it doesn’t encourage neglect of other properties in the city.