Housing, group initiatives and social points spotlight Guelph mayor’s state of the town handle – Guelph

The normally upbeat Cam Guthrie took a more serious tone as he delivered the state of the city address Thursday morning in Guelph, Ont.

The mayor stood up in front of 280 people at the Delta Hotel and Conference Centre. He began with the city’s finances indicating their AAA credit rating is the result of good forecasting of capital budgets, being able to pay down debt, and building reserves. He also touched on some of the economic development highlights, and the formation of the downtown strategic advisory group.

But when the subject of housing came up, that was when Guthrie’s mood became more subdued. Guthrie urged residents of the city to embrace increasing the housing supply including supportive, affordable and non-profit housing.

“The community must stop being NIMBY (not in my backyard),” Guthrie told the audience. “It is time to embrace YIMBY (yes in my backyard). You play a pivotal role in getting housing built. Let’s unite and say no more delays, no more gatekeeping, and get housing built.”

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Ontario’s Big City Mayors call for provincial cooperation on new housing law

A few people in attendance raised the issue of the lack of housing to Guthrie during a question and answer session. Guthrie touched on how recent provincial legislation (More Homes Built Faster Act and More Homes for Everyone Act) will have major ramifications on how they deal with the housing crisis. The legislation would bypass municipal planning hurdles, and reduce or eliminate development fees that the cities collect from developers in order to expedite the construction of more homes.

“I really wanted to portray the seriousness of the issues in our city, especially around housing,” Guthrie said. “We are in a crisis. And we need to find solutions and ideas around that crisis.”

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In his speech, Guthrie mentioned two projects that are expected to be built during this term of council: the Baker Street redevelopment and the south-end recreation centre. He showed two newspaper articles published in 2014 to explain how council at the time was asked for $59 million for the rec centre, and $43 million for the Baker Street redevelopment.

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“Last year, the bid (for the rec center) came in at $121 million. Next month, an updated report on the scoping of the project and cost will arrive to council.” Guthrie said the longer a project is delayed, the more it is going to cost the taxpayer in the future.

He also brought up homelessness, addiction, and mental health and how that is impacting the citizens of Guelph, especially in the downtown. Guthrie stressed the importance of a downtown that is safe and welcoming to everyone.

“We need to make sure that we do not allow the downtown core to slip away to behaviors that are not acceptable in our community,” Guthrie said. “(The downtown) is not just for the people who run the businesses, but visitors to the city who want to shop and take in what the downtown core has to offer.”

Guthrie says it was important for him to bring up the challenges the city is facing now and in the near future in his speech.

“If I had not brought some of those issues up, probably people would have thought I was dodging those issues.”

The state of the city address was organized by the Guelph Chamber of Commerce. President Shakiba Shayani says she was pleased with the turnout. She added it was great to have members of the community gather to listen to what the mayor had to say.

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“I think (the speech) was well received, folks have given us good feedback, and we are looking forward to the work moving forward,” said Shayani. “Folks are talking about the affordability crisis, housing issues, and figuring out how to be better partners with the municipality in creating the community we all deserve.”

Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie delivering his State of the City address this morning. pic.twitter.com/LynCPHMmXq

— Ken Hashizume (@khash27) February 2, 2023

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