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.