Peace on the home front

February 6, 2012


Some people don’t have homes.  Some people’s home are not safe.

Many are fortunate to have homes that are their personal sanctuary – a place to restore balance in a fast-paced world and to raise families.

So when the sanctity of your home is destroyed by the actions of someone else, you feel threatened, violated and angry.

This is the experience of some residents in our community, a consequence of the behaviour exhibited by some of the people who live in shared rental housing in their neighbourhood.

This is not a new experience but it has been growing in recent years with increasing demand for shared rental housing in our community and a decline in respect shown by some members of our community for the impact of their behaviour on others. 

Shared rental housing, which includes lodging houses and two-unit houses, is an affordable housing option for many Guelph residents.

City Council’s response to address the erosion of the quality of life in some neighbourhoods considered three approaches:

  • Education – change the bad behaviour
  • Enforcement – punish the bad behaviour
  • Regulation – change the conditions to mitigate the impact on neighbourhoods

One of the regulatory approaches identified was to reduce the concentration of shared rental housing dwellings in any one neighbourhood through zoning.

To provide time for the City to study shared rental housing issues and recommend an amendment to the zoning by-law, Council passed an Interim Control By-law in June 2007.

Council subsequently passed an amendment to the zoning by-law for shared rental housing. Council’s decision was appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) by two community stakeholders.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) also became a party to the OMB hearing. The OHRC provided an opinion that the amendment Council passed to the zoning by-law was an example of “people zoning” and, as such, violated the Human Rights Code.

Legislation from planning acts to human rights codes prevent “people zoning” in Ontario and Canada.

On January 30, Council repealed the zoning bylaw amendment on shared rental housing. As a result, City staff have asked the OMB to dismiss the two appeals on the amendment. A bylaw to repeal the Interim Control Bylaw will also come forward to Council.

I fully understand the reaction of some residents to this decision: 

  • They may be concerned that Council has abandoned their cause or, worse, favoured the financial interests of another stakeholder, over their right to enjoy their own home
  • They may feel that they have lost in their struggle to simply enjoy their own home
  • They were not afforded an opportunity to delegate on this matter before Council made their decision

Council remains very concerned and committed to addressing this issue. That is why we have pursued several paths at one time rather than putting all our eggs in one basket.  While one path has closed, others remain. 

  • The former zoning by-law for shared rental housing remains intact
  • Education and enforcement programs, in partnership with the University of Guelph and Guelph Police Services, remain intact
  • Council has directed City staff to immediately develop a rental licensing program, including consultation with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, for Council’s consideration

While other municipalities are turning to licensing programs, their development is no picnic.  They are usually strongly opposed by some community stakeholders.  My advice to members of the community, who would like to see how a licensing program may help to address their concerns, is to get involved in the process.

About Karen Farbridge

An unwavering change maker seeking a just, democratic and sustainable world.

View all posts by Karen Farbridge

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One Comment on “Peace on the home front”

  1. Luke Hancock Says:

    I think education is the most important factor.

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