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Guelph mayor ‘surprised’ by province’s decision to reverse course on housing development

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It appears the province’s decision to walk back on a plan to increase housing development caught the mayor of Guelph, Ont., by surprise.

Minister of Housing and Rural Affairs Paul Calandra announced on Monday that the Ontario provincial government was reversing a decision to expand urban boundaries in several municipalities, including Guelph.

He is also intends to wind back changes made to official plans in a number of regional municipalities, including Wellington County, Halton Region and Waterloo Region.

“I was not given the heads-up nor were staff at city hall,” said Mayor Cam Guthrie who learned about the decision while in Ottawa, where he was scheduled to speak to a parliamentary committee on the housing crisis in Canada.

“From a courtesy point of view, a respect point of view for a level of government that we are and the collaborative approach, the fact that we didn’t get a call was disappointing.”

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Callandra explained that the process that his predecessor Steve Clark’s office used did not meet the government’s standards and that is why they are wiping the slate clean. He did say the province will be compensating municipalities over the costs that were incurred.

“I will be making sure every red cent will be compensated back to the taxpayers of Guelph,” Guthrie said, adding that the process ended up being “a complete waste of time.”

The Guelph and District Home Builders Association (GDHBA) and the Guelph Wellington Development Association (GWDA) are echoing Guthrie’s sentiment on the reversal.

“(Monday’s) sudden reversal eliminates years of collaboration with our partners at the municipalities,” said GDHBA president Josh Kaufman in a statement. “(The decision) will drastically impact our industry’s ability to deliver these much-needed new homes.”

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Guthrie says the government’s backtracking on their promise back in the spring means a number of important projects in Guelph are now in jeopardy.

“The height and density within the downtown core, 23 storeys was going to be allowed — that’s now gone,” said Guthrie, referring to a proposed residential apartment complex to be located in the downtown area.

“Another is the GID (Guelph Innovation District) lands which was long ready to go. That has now been changed.”

— with files from the Canadian Press

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