The Mayor of Guelph is intrigued with the prospect of more housing being built in the Royal City.
The Ford government recently introduced the More Homes Built Faster Act, a bill that, if passed, would ensure cities, towns and rural communities grow with a mix of ownership and rental housing types that meet the needs of residents.
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark said in a news release on Tuesday, “This is not just a big-city crisis: the housing supply shortage affects all Ontarians, including rural, urban and suburban, north and south, young and old.”
He said, “Our Housing Supply Action Plan is creating a strong foundation on which 1.5 million homes can be built over the next 10 years.”
In that plan, 18,000 homes would be built in the city of Guelph, according to Clark.
“It is a request from the ministry to send in a municipal housing pledge by March of 2023,” said Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie. “It is to show the ministry how we are providing the 18,000 units by 2031.”
Guthrie believes that number is achievable but went on to say that doesn’t mean the 18,000 will all be built from scratch.
“Some of it will be zoning changes where we allow more units to be available,” Guthrie said. “It’s also not about building just in green spaces. We have a plan, about 50-50, to have new units come on stream both in green fields but also in-fill options as well.”
Guthrie does have one reservation about the bill. One of the proposals would see fees charged by municipalities to developers (also known as development charges) be reduced, frozen, or exempt altogether. The Association of Municipalities of Ontario said in a statement that part of the legislation may actually work against the goal of building more homes, and Guthrie agrees.
“Development charges are what pays for growth-related development,” said Guthrie. “If we start to waive those through legislation from the province, it means we are not collecting those funds. The funds still have to be raised but now it will be shifted to the existing tax base.”
The cities of Toronto and Ottawa also have something called “Strong Mayors” powers that enable them to further streamline the approval process in order to have more homes built as quickly as possible. Premier Doug Ford has hinted that he plans to extend those powers to other large municipalities, including Guelph.
“Until any type of legislation is actually tabled, it is hard for me to explain whether I would or not use anything,” said Guthrie. “I don’t think we need (the strong mayor powers). I think we can be able to come together and get it done anyways.”
Guthrie also chairs the Ontario Big City Mayors, a group consisting of mayors of Ontario municipalities with a population of 100,000 or more who have been lobbying the province on the issue of affordable and attainable housing.
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