Thank you so much, Chair and committee members.
I believe wholeheartedly that the day of reckoning has come, or is just around the corner, when it comes to affordability and housing for citizens across this country. I just want to encourage everybody—and that includes me—that the time to talk about this is over; we need to act and we need to act very quickly.
Mayors have the honour of being the closest to the people that we serve. Daily, we are walking around our downtowns or we're out and about at events and we get to communicate with people across our communities.
I really need you to listen to me. In my almost 10 years as mayor, I have never, ever, seen the housing affordability struggle as acute as it is today.
Families are beyond struggling. Young people feel hopeless. Newcomers, especially refugees, who came here excited for a new life in Canada are experiencing shock and anxiety due to housing and affordability problems. Businesses are struggling to be productive or to expand, because their own employees can't find affordable housing. People's mortgages are about to double, and some people who have lived in their homes for years are now completely struggling. They're going under. They're feeling helpless, and frankly, it's because they are. This is our reality. It's not just in Guelph, but across the country.
The good news is that we've all been elected to find solutions to this problem together. Working collaboratively is really what it is going to take. I want to acknowledge my own MP, Lloyd Longfield, for helping as best he can in our city when it comes to housing.
I do want to thank the federal government as well for many of the financial levers it's put in place for municipalities for our infrastructure priorities. The Canada community-building fund, which is helping to flow through provinces to municipalities, is an example.
In the 2023 budget, you had funding to address the housing crisis. This included the housing accelerator fund. I want to thank the Prime Minister for choosing to make that announcement in my city. That announcement was actually made at a permanent supportive housing complex in Guelph called Grace Gardens. That shows a true partnership between levels of government to make things happen.
The housing accelerator fund will provide financial motivation to increase housing supply growth and create at least 100,000 net new homes across Canada. The application specific to my city is going to help encourage almost 1,000 new units with financial contributions of just over $28 million to support housing. I was going to say “when we get it”, but I'm going to say that I know we're going to get that money.
Examples of initiatives that the City of Guelph is undertaking are cash-in-lieu for parking, stormwater, and parkland; developing evaluation frameworks to optimize city-owned land for supportive housing; and giving incentives to attract different types of housing. If Guelph is successful, we hope we will have this money through the housing accelerator fund this fall.
Also, just last Tuesday, my city unanimously passed a motion to ask staff to create four units “as of right”. I know this is a key push for Minister Fraser.
I believe—we all believe—that housing is a human right. It should be affordable and attainable for all people, but there is an imbalance between the supply of housing and the demand for it that is contributing to many issues, especially rental housing costs.
The market, alongside existing government funding programs and various policy levers, is not delivering enough affordable housing to meet community needs. In the last year, Guelph has seen a 27% increase in the rents for an average one-bedroom unit. What used to be somewhat affordable is now over $2,000 per month. According to rentals.ca, Guelph is now ranked the 10th most expensive city for monthly rents out of the 35 Canadian cities. The average price of homes sold in Guelph in September was $916,000.
As a city, we remain committed to working collaboratively on finding solutions to the housing crisis. Earlier this year, we developed and signed the provincial housing pledge to help the construction of 18,000 new homes by 2031 as requested by the province. Meeting this target will require building over 2,000 units per year up to 2031. This reflects a level of construction that has never been experienced before.
In addition, this pledge brings many challenges to light. They include the high cost of unlocking infrastructure, such as roads, sidewalks, water pipes, sewer pipes. Related to that are long-term permanent municipal funding strategies, especially with the critical growth-related infrastructure projects we need.
Another challenge is the significant cost that is being transferred to current and future homeowners and businesses in Guelph as a direct result of Bill 23, which reduces development charge revenues needed to build supporting infrastructure.
As well, there is a persistent, unhealthy, unbalanced low vacancy rate of below 3% on rental units that is directly linked to the lack of rental construction over the past decade.
Another challenge is the unstable supply and high cost of construction materials and the high debt-carrying costs for developers, which I often hear about. The result is that it takes a long time for these things to get built. As well, of course, as we heard, there is a lack of tradespeople.
All of this is compounded by the fact that municipalities are constrained by an outdated fiscal framework, given the realities of 2023. I know the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has really brought that to light.
I want to thank you for this opportunity to discuss these ideas here today. I believe we have no time to waste. We are in a housing crisis and we must act now and act together.
Thank you very much.