Guelph needs a city council that’s willing to act collaboratively to approve housing projects, says incumbent mayoral candidate Cam Guthrie, who was joined by two other candidates in calling for a speedier development approval process.
“I’ve been saying this for years … I need a council that supports actually moving forward with developments. That’s what it comes down to,” Guthrie said during a Monday morning mayoral candidates forum, claiming there are councillors who voted against 700 to 896 housing units recommended for approval by city staff during the past four years.
“We cannot go into the next term with a council that is split on trying to house people,” he added. “It takes an all-of-team approach. We have to find a way to say ‘yes’ to housing.”
Hosted by Guelph & District Association of Realtors, the event saw three of six mayoral candidates respond to a series of prepared questions, followed by a few from the audience at the Italian Canadian Club that morning.
Participating candidates included William Albabish, Guthrie and John Edward Krusky, while fellow candidates Danny Drew and Shelagh McFarlane sent regrets. Event organizers said Nicholas A. Ross didn’t respond to an invitation to take part.
All three participating candidates agree more must be done to speed up the development process, particularly in areas like large, under-used commercial parking lots where there’s already suitable infrastructure in place.
The housing affordability crisis is largely a matter of supply and demand, said Krusky, calling on the federal and provincial governments to get involved and expressed a desire for Crown corporations to play a role in building homes.
“I am an advocate of governments, at times, getting involved in the economy and pushing policies in the right direction,” he said. “We need to address the idea of creating more supply than there is a demand for housing in the province of Ontario.
“It’s not necessarily in the interests of the private sector to do that and that is why we have a government, to get involved in a free market society and push things in the direction they need to go.”
While in support of growth and building new homes in the city, Albabish urged some caution.
“One thing that a lot of municipalities are facing is all the ‘Not In My Back Yard’ groups. We’ve got to be cognizant of that as well,” Albabish said. “We want to allow higher density but we’ve got to be aware that there are going to be groups and neighbours who, rightfully so, say ‘I don’t want my low-density area that doesn’t have the infrastructure to support high density to be high density.’
“We’ve got to take into account the current infrastructure. We’ve got to be cognizant that councillors … will always support what their constituents are.”
Guthrie noted some of the things attendees were asking about, such as bringing an end to exclusionary zoning which limits where accessory units can be built, are already in the works. That’s part of the draft comprehensive zoning bylaw review which current council members have provided feedback on and will be voted on by the next term of council.
Krusky urged a review of development charges in the city, with an eye toward creating an incentive for developers to build housing.
Albabish would like to “start the conversation” with the province about potentially allowing alternative materials to be used in some cases, as well as lobby for increased skills training to aid the labour shortage.