Student tells Mayor how his family had to move because of Guelph’s high taxes

By Gerry Barker

May 8, 2017

This student told the Mayor that his family was forced to move to Fergus because Guelph taxes and fees exceeded their ability to pay. For his part, Mayor Guthrie was sympathetic and wondered if his own children would be able to afford their own homes in Guelph.

It comes as no surprise that after ten years, three successive administrations have painted property owners into a corner with average annual tax increases of 3.5 per cent.

Starting this year, property owners will be facing a two per cent special levy to pay for infrastructure and a slush fund called “City Buildings.” Toss in the growth of compulsory user fees such as electricity, water, storm water, public transit, waste removal, and parking. Adding those essentials the cost of owning property and living in the Royal City is making it tough on pensioners, lower income folks, and young families just starting up.

Another factor influencing the rising cost of housing in the city is exacerbated by the demand of people escaping the soaring costs of housing in the GTA. Our problem is years of financial mismanagement resulting in the loss of millions, has added to our corporate debt, the reduction of reserves and an operational overhead that is 50 per cent greater than either Kitchener or Cambridge.

The city has received all kinds of advice from consultants and citizens to reduce spending and overhead. According to the latest Statistics Canada census, the population of Guelph increased by 9,000 in the past five years. That’s about 7.5 per cent or 1.5 per cent increase per year.

The mayor claims that the city is forced by the provincial “Places to Grow” demands for higher density residential development. Guelph’s PTG target is a population of 175,000 by 2031. That’s an arbitrary target of population increase of 45,000 that must be met within 14 years.

Whoa! Increasing our population by 9,000 in five years and maintaining that rate, the city will miss the target in 2031 by 20,000 new residents.

The frantic efforts of the two Farbridge terms in office has accelerated the number of homes by greater use of land, building complexes of low-rise condo buildings mixed in with strip housing. Very few single-family homes in comparison have been built in Guelph since 2007.

So, after ten years of almost killing single-family home construction, forcing builders to seek more friendly communities to develop housing, this great social engineering mission has failed its purpose. Purpose? To cram people into areas without front or back yards in most cases only benefits the builders and boosts assessment revenues to the city.

The City of Guelph has oodles of land, most of it owned by the University of Guelph, to develop properties that are calm, open and beautiful residences. These are the real places to grow. Such development gives character and convenience to those folks who don’t want to live in the crammed ghettos, the hallmark of an administration that fails to understand the need for personal space as a part of living.

The high-density developments in the south end between Victoria and Gordon, on Eastview orchestrated by the administrations has created a new kind of sprawl in which traffic increases, access is limited for emergency and city service vehicles.

Now that we put two and two together, the Farbridge plan was to plan a new city on the reformatory lands owned by the province. It is now revealed that city staff was used to plan the new city where vehicles would be banned except for deliveries, businesses would locate allowing workers to walk or ride their bikes to work, shop or play tennis.

This was the plan to meet the provincial Places to Go population targets.

Just last February the administration announced that it was pursuing ownership of the lands. The cash-strapped provincial government was not prepared to give the property away to the city and it was listed for sale.

But wait! Plan B called for attracting developers to participate buying the lands, because the city does not have the capital to do so. Here we are with a land use plan and detailed construction of mixed housing, commercial and industrial development.

There has been a lot of public money spent already on this project laying out detailed plans for development. Trouble is the city doesn’t own the lands that contain the former reformatory complex and potential available land for development at about 55 per cent.

Why is the administration even considering this? Now we know why. They need the property to meet the PTG target and control the design and elements of the lands.

I don’t know about you but combining the capital that has been misspent, blown on failed projects and draining the reserves, this social engineering project should be stopped. Stopped that is, until the city finances have been restored to be able to afford such enterprise.

The prices of housing will taper off but Guelph housing is already too costly for the average person.  The question is will the high-density residences hold their value?

We need development that serves the people and is broad in terms of variety, location and choice.

Today we don’t have that choice.


P.S. Today is my wife’s birthday, Barbara is the eternal goddess who has brought joy and all that other good stuff to our union. Happy 39th, honey.




Filed under Between the Lines

9 responses to “Student tells Mayor how his family had to move because of Guelph’s high taxes

  1. Ross Davidson-Pilon

    Happy Birthday Barb. …is that 39 and holding?

  2. Well, well, well. Looks like I’m not the only one moving out of town. Truthfully, taxes was one of the considerations. Money Sense may well have voted Guelph as the best city in Canada to live in, but the taxes do not make sense. Moved here from the West in the fall of ’77, so…….is that 39 and counting? Happy Birthday, Barb.

  3. Guido

    This high density housing today creates slums tomorrow. I see it already in parts of the south end. I once heard it called $$$$ development

  4. Rena

    Happy birthday Barb.

  5. Glen

    Why did it take a student to bring to the Mayor;s attention that Guelph citizens can’t afford the repeated tax increases to which they have been subjected? I have long railed against the unsustainable property tax increases foisted on Guelph taxpayers. Compounded since 2001, the increases approach 100%. The culprit is mind boggling waste of taxes on poorly thought out social engineering fiascos like District Energy & GMHI, to name a couple of them, which total $100 million. The driving force behind this waste was the Farbridge following so called “progressive” bloc of 7 (which is now 8) abetted by a bloated city staff who keep pushing more expenditures that are rubber-stamped by the bloc.With a councillor espousing taking a reverse or 2nd mortgage to pay “tax obligations”, is it a mystery why people are moving out of Guelph?

  6. Louis

    I guess it’s time to encourage everyone to vote out the Farbridge 7


    Moving sounds like a possible solution,but,have a look at the taxes in other municipalities and what you get or not in the way of services/etc.I’ve often heard the expression, mainly by the so-called-progressive-know-it alls, “If you don’t like it move out of GUELPH then” when someone is expressing their deep concern about the cost of living going inexorably higher year after year.Louis,you’ve hit the proverbially nail on the head.
    Happy 29th,Barb!

    • David Birtwistle: The regressives ignore the multi-million reckless spending by their administrations in the past ten years. Remember bike lanes,shrinking thoroughfares,exotic garbage collection and dump, failed community energy initiatives, a bridge too low, the Urbacon new city hall lawsuit, money spent on events such as the Hillside and Kazoo festivals, hiring staff to fill nondescript jobs, litigating a record number of legal actions, promoting high-density developments on former pasture lands?

      These are the same councillors who killed online voting by importing a couple of so-called experts that nobody ever heard of; who tried to have Guelph Declared a ‘Sancturary City” with no understand of what it meant; who annually boosted the cost of water and its waste processing despite a reduction in the amount of water used in the city; Voting on the sale of Guelph Hydro, six of the Bloc of 7 voted to sell the utility if the Strategic Options Committee (SOC), currently shopping Guelph Hydro recommends selling it to an outside organization. That report is expected sometime this summer.

      The bloc of regressives will not go quietly into the night. Now that their record of not acting in the public’s interests is being exposed, this may change by next year when they seek re-election.

  8. Terry

    2018 is going to be a year of cleansing. First, Sandals, Wynne and company will be sent packing from Queens’s Park in June…a spring cleaning. Second, Guelph City Council will get some much needed pruning…fall cleaning. Then the damage can be undone. Though it will take years and years.

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