By Gerry Barker
April 13, 2017
Money Sense magazine announced this week that the City of Guelph is the most attractive place to buy real estate in Canada. The editors claimed that Guelph was chosen because it has one of the healthiest real estate markets in Canada.
Supporting this is the estimated average cost of a home in Guelph is $441,000, which is four times the average household income. This contrasts with the city’s average home price of $333,877. The criteria for stating these figures are not revealed. But the disparity between the two is $107,123.
That’s a big number that influences the Money Sense claim that Guelph is the top city in the country in which to buy a home.
The report extols Guelph’s short distance from Toronto and the low unemployment rate of 4.7 per cent. It continues to praise the high paying jobs in the public sector and the diversity of private corporations in industry.
What it doesn’t tell its readers is that it skews the unemployment figure, the source of which is unknown and has not budged for six years. The highly-paid public workers, represented in all three levels of government have the finest job security benefits in the country.
The report does not touch the cost of living in Guelph, another dubious distinction for the city with one of the highest tax rates and user fees in the country. It fails to note the millions spent by the administration on failed environmentally -ocused projects that have cost more than $100 million in the past ten years.
Nor is there any mention of the administration’s aggressive policies to install bicycle lanes on major roads shrinking the lanes used by vehicles. They operate a waste management system that fails to service some 6,000 households but they are still taxed for the service. Several millions have been spent on the Organic Waste Facility, part of the Waste Resource Innovation Centre. The organic plant takes wet materials from other Ontario communities but does not sell the compost to citizens.
Inconsequential issues you may say?
Let’s talk about the planning policies of the administration. In eight years, the former administration halted single-family home construction in the city. Instead new, approved projects were high-density developments with low-rise condo buildings mixed in with homes that were connected in strips.
This policy exists today and the city has these islands of high-density developments. These projects benefit the developer who builds more households on smaller sites, and the municipality achieves greater revenues from the high number of assessed homes.
It was done using the Ontario government’s directive “Places to grow” to increase density to stop sprawl of single-family homes.
Council is about to approve a high-density project sitting on some three hectares on the busy Highway Six in an undeveloped site at the south end of the city. This project will contain 491 residences plus underground parking for 700 cars.
The project is isolated from shopping and services. Approval requires council to change the height bylaw to accommodate the developer.
This project should be rejected if for no other reason that it is in the wrong place. Residents will create traffic problems and the infrastructure to service the development will be costly. The strain on the city’s ability to provide water services, storm runoff and expanded road to accommodate the increased traffic is daunting.
Guelph does not need this development. What it does need is a balanced development policy that provides choices for citizens, including allowing single-family home development.
It’s no secret that in Guelph, established builders of homes have been driven out of the city to more friendly communities who welcome balanced development.
There is plenty of undeveloped land in the city, much of it owned by the University.
The high-density development policies of the former administration should be changed to create balanced lower density developments.
It can start with denying this development on Highway Six south of the heart of the city.
It is reasonable to shelve it until the city hires an accredited Chief Financial Officer, a City Solicitor and a Deputy Chief Administrative Officer to take over the Corporate Services department.