There is an emerging thought leadership on the issue of housing and homelessness in Guelph that is very exciting and led by many passionate people.
Housing and homelessness are complex issues not simply because of the many sectors that have some level of shared accountability for addressing them but also because the housing sector is impacted by a many local, regional and global socioeconomic factors.
The County of Wellington has recently completed its housing and homelessness plan for Guelph and Wellington. It was a highly engaging and inclusive process, informed by individuals with lived experience as well as the collective community wisdom of the Task Force on Poverty Elimination, and many others.
The City of Guelph has just launched the development of a Housing Strategy to complement and align our policies and programs with the findings of the County of Wellington.
Housing is also one of three key themes that has emerged from the community through Guelph Wellbeing.
Last week, I attended a presentation on housing affordability by David Foster of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA). The talk was hosted by the local association of home builders. His core message was that we need to start a new conversation to solve the complex issue of housing affordability: home builders need to better understand government and government needs to better understand the home building business.
Before the talk, I read a CHBA report on housing accessibility and affordability solutions. I was struck by its alignment with some of the local priorities that have been identified, in particular the CHBA’s strong support for a portable housing benefit.
The multiple benefits of solving most complex issues are generally well known, having usually been the subject of decades of research. But change is hard.
When I look at the success of getting two-way all day GO Rail service on the provincial agenda (the calling of an election notwithstanding), it wasn’t the need to demonstrate the benefits of public transit. I think there were two factors in our favour:
- People are fed up with congestion.
- A compelling business case was developed by some unusual partners, including three municipal governments and several businesses.
The social, health and economic benefits of ensuring everyone can find and maintain an appropriate, safe and affordable place to call home are also well known. A local consensus is emerging around the need to address the issue of housing and homelessness. Is there a business case to be made, by a group of unusual partners, that might compel action?