“Appeals” Biggest Roadblock to Housing Crisis
During a special orientation and workshop on the housing crisis held on Tuesday night, city staff and council in Guelph highlighted appeals as a major obstacle to addressing the issue. The purpose of the meeting was to update everyone on the city’s efforts and potential solutions for the housing crisis, while also identifying the barriers preventing further progress. Appeals emerged as a prominent concern among participants.
For instance, developers have currently filed an appeal against the Comprehensive Zoning Bylaw, which granted council the authority to pre-zone sites in Guelph for maximum height and density, increase the permitted number of bedrooms in basement apartments from two to three, and allow triplexes without special permission. Krista Walkey, the general manager of planning and building services, mentioned that these appeals slow down the process and impose additional time and financial costs on landowners.
Appeals have also been filed against the Clair-Maltby Secondary Plan and 65 Delhi St., causing significant delays in providing essential housing for vulnerable individuals.
Councilor Ken Yee Chew expressed a desire for all appeals to be eliminated, allowing for smoother progress. In the absence of that, it was suggested that developers be encouraged to build affordable housing, while also considering expediting infrastructure development on lands not currently under appeal.
However, the administrative process itself can contribute to delays. To address this issue, efforts have been made to digitize building records, and an online building permit system has been implemented. The city is also in the process of hiring eight positions, primarily in engineering and planning, in advance to expedite projects. Jayne Holmes, the deputy CAO of infrastructure, development, and enterprise services, noted the challenges in acquiring resources in these fields, as the competitive job market poses difficulties in recruitment and retention. To address this, a headhunter has been hired, and compensation packages are being explored.
Other suggestions discussed during the meeting included strengthening relationships with developers and collaborating with the public sector to increase the availability of affordable housing in Guelph. The idea of implementing tax discounts or waiving fees for non-profit, charitable, or faith-based organizations interested in developing social housing was raised. Tara Baker, the general manager of finance, explained that property tax waivers or discounts require a legislative process, but they are reviewing the potential implementation of a vacancy tax. Additionally, development fees for basement apartments are currently not being charged.
Councilor Dominique O’Roarke emphasized that Guelph has historically had low rental availability compared to national rates and expressed the desire for significant improvement in the coming years. The meeting served as the initial step toward addressing this issue. A report based on the feedback received will be released in mid-August, and further meetings in September and October will provide opportunities for the public to contribute their thoughts.