State of the City

February 8, 2024.

Good morning and thank you for joining me for my 2024 State of the City Address.

I’d like to start by acknowledging my fellow City Council colleagues who are here today (…).

The City of Guelph Executive Team is here as well. Thank you CAO Scott Stewart, and Deputy CAOs Colleen Clack-Bush, Jayne Holmes, and Trevor Lee. I especially want to thank CAO Scott Stewart for his leadership and support over the last nine years. I also want to acknowledge Steve Kraft from Guelph Public Library, who worked at the library for about 41 years, of which he served the last 9 as its CEO and chief librarian. Steve just announced his retirement last week. Thank you for all your contributions to our community over the years. Speaking of retirements, as you may have already heard, Scott has announced his retirement from the City of Guelph. We’ve seen eye-to-eye on many things, not all, but many, except of course when it comes to his belief that the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to win the Stanley Cup. Scott started with the City of Guelph in the role of Deputy CAO of Infrastructure, Development, and Enterprise Services in December 2015 and moved into the role of CAO in July 2019. He helped set the direction for Guelph to become a more modern and effective government and also helped navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Scott’s parting gift to us was his oversight of Guelph’s new Strategic Plan. This plan will guide us even when Scott departs this year. Thank you, Scott.

I want to take a moment to acknowledge MPP Mike Schreiner who is here today. Thanks for working at the provincial level to advocate for Guelph.

Of course, I want to thank and acknowledge my University of Guelph colleagues who are here, including President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Charlotte Yates.

Thank you to today’s sponsors, and, of course, the Guelph Chamber of Commerce. Shakiba, my friend, thank you for your contribution to creating economic prosperity in our community. A big thank you to all Chamber staff for coordinating this event and to Delta staff for providing this wonderful space and tasty breakfast.

Of course, I couldn’t do this without the support of my family, Rachel and our kids Anakin and Adelaide, as well as my parents Frank and Karen. Thank you for your love and support.


For today’s State of the City, I’m going to focus on the facts. My goal is to clear the air of disinformation and misinformation because there is too much of that out there nowadays. We need to be grounded in the truth about what’s occurred, what’s transpiring, and where we’re going. I am going to speak as plainly and as firmly as I can today. As I move through my update, I will share truths and data so that at the end of the day you too can be armed with the facts.

First, I’m going to focus on two topics that I believe were the top issues for the community in 2023 and will continue to be the top two moving into 2024. With no surprise to anyone, those are:

  1. Housing, and
  2. Affordability.

I will also share some highlights of what has been accomplished in 2023.

Finally, I will discuss where I believe our focus needs to be, not only for 2024 but as we move into the rest of this term.

As always, after my formal presentation, I’m happy to answer your questions.

With that let’s get started.

The housing crisis (right side of the continuum)

You won’t be surprised to know that housing is top of mind for me every single day and in almost everything I do.

To cover this topic, I must talk about the full housing continuum. On the left side of this continuum are individuals and families who are in crisis and who are in emergency shelters or experiencing homelessness. In the middle are independent renters who pay their rent with assistance, and on the right side are independent renters and homeowners. The right side is often referred to as market housing and the left is often referred to as social housing. In Guelph, we are responsible for the right side of this continuum. It in no way means we ignore the left side, but legislatively we focus on the right side.

So let me start by talking about market housing in Guelph.

Let me paint a picture for you. You’re looking to buy a home in Guelph in 2023. You have a household income of $82,559, which is the Average Household Income After Taxes according to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

What can you afford when according to the Guelph and District Realtors Association the benchmark price for a single-family home in Guelph in December 2023 is $892,800? The benchmark price for a townhouse is $656,400, and a condominium price was $535,500. According to, you would need a household income of $163,833 to afford a $799,400 home in Guelph, and your monthly mortgage payment would be $4,436 with a 25-year mortgage.

Is rental better? Not likely, given that Guelph currently ranks 9th nationally as the most expensive for one-bedroom rentals according to The average price for a one-bedroom unit in Guelph is now $2,078 and a two-bedroom is $2,361. When comparing year-over-year data from 2022 to 2023, the average monthly rent in the city went up 1.4 per cent for a one-bedroom apartment and up 1.8 per cent for a two-bedroom apartment.

To really understand what those numbers mean to people, I want to tell you some stories about real Guelphites.

An individual shared this story with me on social media anonymously. They told me, they make a base annual wage of $60,000 plus quarterly bonuses that bump them up to $70,000. They paid off their car and their debt load is small. Currently, they rent a 500-square-foot apartment for $1,600 per month. The reality is that their wage is not enough to get by in this economy. It’s almost impossible to save money because after paying for rent, gas and groceries, they have nothing left. They fear they may end up homeless. Why is someone making $70,000 a year worried about homelessness? If they can’t make it work, how can someone who makes minimum wage afford to live in our city? How will young people afford to move out of their family homes and start their lives?

I recently spoke with a family who was paying $1,700 a month for a rental. Their landlord renovicted them. They had to stay in the same area to access supports and schooling for their children. One of their children had special needs. So, they moved 50 yards down the street into the same townhouse complex where they now pay $2,700 a month. That’s a $1,000 increase per month!

Sadly, that’s not the only story. I recently heard from an individual through the popular Guelph Housing Facebook page. She noted that one person was renting “mattresses on the floor” rather than actual rooms for $520 per month! In one instance, 17 people are living in a 3-bedroom apartment! That is 17 people, probably students, who paid in good faith and have no other choice. This is completely unsafe, but clearly shows the struggle when this is all they can do to get a roof over their heads.

By the way, there are some bad tenants out there too, so these stories, that highlight real issues like renovictions and such…can’t be the only side to the story. Landlords are experiencing hardships too. I fully acknowledge that.

In January 2023, close to 30 students lined up in the cold just to see a possible basement rental unit. The woman, who shared the story on X, explained her daughter had gone to see 10 rentals and didn’t have any success finding anything under $1,000 for a one-bedroom.

These are the facts. This is the data. This is the reality people are facing. So, what’s being done?

For one, the University of Guelph is developing a Student Housing Strategy to support students in securing safe and affordable housing both on campus and within the community.

532 residential units are coming to a property directly across from the University of Guelph at Stone Road and Gordon Street. Although it’s not officially designated for student housing, I’m certain it will give many students a safe home within walking distance of school.

The ALMA housing project converted the former Holiday Inn on Scottsdale Drive into purpose-built student rental housing. The same developer is planning to bring a new development forward for more student housing.

Now for some more good news.

In 2023, the City issued 1,320 building permits for new residential units, which is the highest number since 2016. The construction value of these permits is just over $841 million. For comparison, in 2022, the City issued 1,181 building permits for new residential units, with a construction value of $587 million.

Overall, 2,230 site-specific units were approved by Council in 2023, compared to 1,922 in 2022.

The numbers don’t lie, we’re making progress.

I’m also happy to report that City staff processed 100 per cent of site plan applications in 2023 within the 60-day legislated timeline. The average number of days to process site plan applications decreased from 128 days in 2022 to just 26 in 2023. The average number of days to process Zoning By-law applications decreased from 209 in 2022 to just 49 in 2023 due to the continuous improvement activities we implemented between late 2022 to 2023.

The City is also speeding up application reviews through several changes, including:

  1. Digitizing building records for quicker review
  2. Allowing three units as of right
  3. Upzoning properties to allow mixed-use. This means, for example, mall sites can replace some of their parking with housing.
  4. Giving delegated authority to City staff for certain provisions to reduce lengthy wait times to get in front of Council for approvals.
  5. Updating the City’s building permit software
  6. Hiring two strategic housing staff in 2023 – one for each end of the housing continuum.

We’re also unlocking future growth areas. Here’s what we’ve been up to in 2023 to make sites ready for more housing:

In Downtown Guelph we completed servicing studies and substantial planning for infrastructure reconstruction needed now and for future growth.
We’re getting infrastructure in place in the Guelph Innovation District area by phasing in the reconstruction of York Road—currently underway—completing the York Trunk Sewer and preparing for improvements to Victoria Road and Stone Road.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Federal Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF). Throughout 2023, we worked tirelessly, especially staff, to submit an application to the HAF. I’m thrilled to tell you that less than a month ago Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined us in Guelph to officially announce that we’re receiving $21.4 million to incentivize the creation of 739 new housing units above the City average over the next three years. This funding will help reduce housing barriers and increase housing in Guelph while supporting the development of affordable, inclusive, equitable, and diverse communities.

City Council continues to be supportive of more residential housing in Guelph. Council’s voting record on housing developments shows this to be true. How many staff recommendations, motions, and amendments related to housing do you think Council voted on in 2023?

Here are the facts for 2023:

  • Council voted on 76 housing-related items.
  • Voted on 13 staff recommendations and Council motions and amendments related to homelessness.
  • Passed 11 Zoning Bylaw and Official Plan amendments. All but 2 were approved unanimously by the Council members present.
  • Held six (6) Special Council meetings related to housing and/or homelessness.

All this work aligns with our commitment in the City of Guelph Housing Pledge: For Guelph, By Guelph, which Council approved in February 2023. We are committed to facilitating the construction of 18,000 new homes by 2031. The reality is that the housing target is not just for the City to achieve, it requires support from the Province, the development community, public agencies, and partners.

To reach the Province’s mandated target of 18,000 units by 2031, the City needs developers to build about 1,974 units every year. This number is about 400 units more than the highest number of permits the City issued in the last 20 years. The Province modified these target numbers in October and for 2023 our annual housing target was 1,320 units—exactly the number of new units we issued! For 2024, our target is 1,500 new units. The increase in supply is dearly needed, and that means all types of housing. This couldn’t be clearer, especially when it’s stated by the Bank of Canada.

Fact: We need more supply to help with shelter costs.

As much as your City is bringing clarity to housing processes and speeding up the delivery of housing, the fact still remains, we’re missing clarity from the Provincial government.

Last year was fraught with changes to provincial housing legislation.

Although, I do see positive steps on the horizon with Minister Calandra as the new housing minister. I am optimistic that our governments can work together to ensure more affordable housing for Guelphites. In a couple of weeks, Guelph, along with many municipalities across the province, will await potential legislative changes that may bring about the clarity that both City Planning departments and the development community require to put shovels in the ground.

Fact: Cities approve housing, developers (both private and nonprofit) build them.

We’ve done a lot to make things faster and easier for developers and builders to increase new housing units in Guelph, but we’re not done yet.

The housing crisis (left side of continuum)

Let’s turn our attention to the left side of the housing continuum now. I know I said earlier that it’s the right side of this continuum that we are ultimately responsible for, but this is so important for our community to get an update on. I appreciate the County sharing this information with me so that I can lay out the facts for you today.

As of December 2023, there are a total of 173 people on the by-name list in Guelph-Wellington. The by-name list is a real-time, up-to-date list of people known to be experiencing chronic homelessness. In our community, it is made up of adults, families and youth (between the ages of 16 and 24), including Indigenous community members and even asylum claimants. The County of Wellington, who is contracted by the Province to deliver provincial social housing and homeless programs in Guelph and Wellington County, has an inventory of 108 emergency shelter beds, 13 emergency shelter rooms, and 70 supportive/transitional housing units. This does not include 24 additional emergency shelter beds, 40 new transitional units, and 32 supportive units slated for 2024. Sadly, there are more people in need than there are available beds.

The tragedy is unfolding before our eyes. Our Bylaw team saw an average of 10 encampments throughout 2022, which rose to an average of 20 encampments in 2023. These are real people who need help. No one should have to sleep outside in a tent.

According to the County, the average number of unique individuals accessing emergency shelters has risen from 52 in 2018, to 79 in 2022. Data collected from January to June 2023 shows an average of 105 individuals were accessing emergency shelters on a nightly basis.

Sadly, the complex issue of homelessness is often closely linked to mental health and addiction struggles. In 2023, Guelph had 27 drug-related fatalities, up from 22 the previous year. Additionally, there were 428 incidents where a serious drug-related reaction occurred, often requiring medical intervention. The year 2023 saw the highest number of fatalities since this information began being tracked in 2019. These are not just numbers – each person whose life has been lost to drug poisoning was a member of our community who is loved and missed.

I’m one of the lucky ones, I get to come home to a warm, comfortable house every night. I have visited encampments to talk to individuals living in crisis. I hear their stories and it breaks my heart. I want you to understand their very real struggles, so I’m sharing their words with you today. Please listen to this first-hand account of a person who now lives at Bellevue House in Guelph.

Hearing about someone’s journey from living on the street to having a safe place to call home shows that our supportive housing programs are working.

The City of Guelph provides $17 million of base funding to the County of Wellington every year to fund Guelph’s share of the provincially-legislated social housing services, including emergency shelters and transitional housing.

Fact: the City of Guelph is now contributing an extra $4.6 million a year for homelessness and housing initiatives under the County of Wellington’s oversight.

Currently, the City also provides:

  • $495,000 in annual base funding to run the Wyndham House Youth Shelter along with providing the property rent-free.
  • About $710,000 of annual funding for other related services like Welcoming Streets and the current extension of daytime shelter hours.
  • We provided the County with the Delhi Street property for new transitional housing in Guelph, an equivalent value of $1.4 million, and in July, the County will open 28 transitional housing units at this location.
  • In October, a motion to create a coordinated encampment response team was passed unanimously by Council, and in November $100,000 was approved in the budget to accommodate emergency expenses related to those in encampments.

Council also committed $500,000 in matching funds for the Home for Good campaign, which is providing capital funding for Grace Gardens, Bellevue.

Supportive Housing and Kindle Supportive Housing. This investment turned into over $1 million due to community donations. Thank you, Guelph, you have a big heart.

The City and County, along with community partners, are committed to a human rights-based approach to housing and a coordinated response to supporting individuals experiencing homelessness. We recognize that encampment response is pivotal to individuals successfully exiting unsheltered homelessness. I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the impact some of these issues are having on our businesses downtown. Here is a reminder of what I said in June 2022 in Ottawa at a press conference held by the Ontario Big City Mayors regarding this very issue.

I’m happy to tell you that in 2023, three housing developments opened in Guelph:

  • Grace Gardens, which added 32 permanent supportive housing units,
  • Bellevue Project, which added 8 housing units specifically for youth, and
  • St. Joseph’s Housing Corporation added 65 government-funded, affordable housing units for seniors.

Plus, the Kindle permanent supportive housing location at 10 Shelldale Crescent is ready to open any day, adding a much-needed 32 units.

Just last week, the County held the Wellington-Guelph Health and Housing Symposium to discuss the situation in our region and to develop solutions.

The housing crisis is not something the City of Guelph can tackle alone. This is not just the City’s problem. This is a collective problem, and we need other levels of government, community partners, and developers to help us solve it.

We’ve had great support from key stakeholders and partner organizations locally. I want to highlight the amazing work on the housing and homelessness file being done by folks like:

  • Mark Walton, President and CEO of Guelph General Hospital, who is advocating for supportive housing,
  • The amazing local organizations including the United Way of Guelph Wellington Dufferin, the Guelph Community Foundation, and Guelph and Wellington Task Force for Poverty
  • Elimination who worked together on the Home for Good Campaign,
  • Skyline and SkyDev for donating land for the Kindle Communities-led permanent supportive housing development at 10 Shelldale Crescent,
  • The Downtown Guelph Business Association (DGBA), which raised $29,000 for the Home for Good Campaign. I also want to congratulate the DGBA on a great first year with a new Board, your work in the downtown has a huge impact.
  • I also want to recognize the new group called Friends of Guelph 2.0, which consists of Michael Soligo and Dave Bullock from RWDI, Jim Jarrell from Linamar, Gord Barr from RLB, Stu Lang from the University of Guelph, Jaya James from Hope House Guelph, and Sam Sorbara from Sorbara Law. This local group is advocating for true, affordable working-class rental and home ownership options.

Their amazing work shows that we can all be part of the solution.

When it comes to working with the County of Wellington, I have an update to share with you. There is a long-storied history regarding the relationship between the County and City. One of my top properties when I became mayor was to restore that relationship. I’m pleased to say that in the coming weeks we’re going to reset the Social Services Committee to include four (4) members from County Council and four (4) members from City Council. This will reset the Committee to how it used to be years ago. This renewed relationship is thanks to positive collaboration with Warden Lennox, County CAO Scott Wilson, and City CAO Scott Stewart.

Fact: Sometimes repairing relationships takes longer than one day. I’m so proud that we’re back working together again.

Moving forward in 2024, the City of Guelph is working on:

Developing a Housing Affordability Strategy, and
A new Public Space Use bylaw to help make public spaces owned or operated by the City safer for all members of our Guelph community.
We’re continuing to make progress to help people and fill the gaps in the supportive housing system. Let’s keep it up.

2023 highlights

I now want to turn my attention to providing key highlights from 2023. It was a busy year for staff and Council.

To start with, Guelph completed a refresh of our Strategic Plan to create a plan for the next four years. The plan, entitled “Future Guelph”, was approved by Council in the summer of 2023.

2023 was also a time for two major groundbreaking ceremonies in Guelph.

In June, we broke ground at the Baker District redevelopment site, starting construction of the new central library, underground parking garage and public squares.

In October, we broke ground at the future site of the highly-anticipated South End Community Centre. The centre will provide a much-needed community space and recreation amenities in Guelph’s south end for people of all ages and abilities to connect, play, and explore. This centre will include ice rinks, pool, gym and walking track. This has been a long time coming.

With respect to our economy, the City issued 1,570 business licenses in 2023, 1,560 in 2022, and 1,511 in 2021 showing a small but steady increase. 2023 was the second year of the City’s annual employment survey, which continues to increase the City’s awareness of local business activity. The survey showed 29 new businesses opened in Guelph, which increased our local database of brick-and-mortar businesses to just over 3,500. As we recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Guelph’s labour force continues to outperform many other cities across the country. In November and December, the Guelph Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) had the highest participation and employment rates in Canada and continues to outpace both provincial and national averages. Labour Force statistics show that Guelph’s unemployment rate is at 4.7 per cent which is lower than both the provincial and the national average.

With respect to tourism, Guelph saw visitors from 19 countries come through the door for visitor information at the Civic Museum. We shared 3,200 visitor information with participants from over 20 conferences, large group gatherings, and sporting events – which means we are seeing a really strong recovery in events that drive visitation, overnight stays, and spending in our local economy. In partnership with the Guelph Chamber and Destination Marketing Guelph, we also saw a soft launch of our new visitor-facing brand, with the tagline “Gather here” which after many hours of community collaboration, is a testament to Guelph’s strong spirit of gathering together to play, to work, and to visit. This launch took place alongside another very exciting announcement, we’ll be welcoming the Grand Slam of Curling to the Sleeman Centre in the heart of Downtown in January 2025. I hope to see you there! Also, in 2023, The Toronto Argonauts, a Canadian Football League (CFL) team returned to Guelph! The Grey Cup champions came back to do spring training and play at the University of Guelph. A great sports tourism attraction.

I’ll now turn my attention to public safety and policing. Over the last several years we’ve seen a significant improvement in our Crime Severity Index (CSI) ranking when compared to other cities in the country. Our ranking has gone from a low of 19th place in 2018 up to 12th place in 2022. The 2023 numbers will not be released for several months, but I’m hopeful they will continue this trend. We’ve also seen a significant improvement in our Priority 1 response times after a record high of 7 minutes and 12 seconds in 2019 to 6 minutes and 6 seconds in 2022. This has been achieved even though our calls for service have steadily increased from approximately 75,000 in 2019 to approximately 85,000 in 2023. GPS also increased service levels in important areas including the Break and Enter and Auto Theft Unit and the Downtown Resource Officer Unit. Both units were created to address important community needs.

Some additional highlights I want to share with you from 2023 include:

  • The City of Guelph ranked as one of Waterloo Area’s top employers for a third year in a row. A real testament to our amazing staff and collaborative City culture.
  • Guelph was the first municipality in Canada to earn corporate-wide energy management certification. As part of this system, the City has and continues to implement energy efficiency measures across more than 100 facilities.
  • Guelph’s AAA financial credit rating was reaffirmed by S&P Global Ratings. Getting top marks, yet again, from a neutral, third-party credit rating organization is a clear indication that we’re on the right track with our prudent financial management.
  • We launched the Guelph Greener Homes program, which allows homeowners to apply for a zero-interest loan of up to $50,000 to help cover the costs of energy-efficient home retrofits from windows and doors, to heat pumps and solar-powered systems. The program has over 260 registrants, surpassing our target of 100 registrants!
  • Guelph Transit increased frequency on four (4) routes to improve on-time performance, support passenger load demands and support Guelph’s growing ridership.
  • Guelph built over 13 km of new bike facilities, of which 2.7 km were protected or off-road bike lanes.
  • We added 430 metres (1,410 feet) to City trails.
  • We were thrilled to announce that Conestoga College is coming to Guelph’s downtown core. This will reinvigorate our downtown economy, create jobs, and bring students to enjoy our shops, restaurants, and arts and culture venues.
  • Council moved to adopt a refreshed territorial acknowledgement, which reflects our collective learning and understanding to date as well as our continued commitment to relationship building and journey to truth and reconciliation.
  • Last year, the Guelph Wellington Seniors Association and the Wellington-Waterloo Community Futures started work to implement a survey of older adults in our region. This data will help the City ensure older adults in our communities can remain healthy and age with dignity. The survey results should be ready this spring.

So, guess what? The Hospital is Provincial. How many times have you heard me say that? However, now’s my chance to let you in on some updated information the community should know. Thank you to the hospital for sharing this with me today. Working with the City of Guelph Paramedics, the hospital was able to reduce its ambulance offload times by almost 85 per cent ensuring that patients are transferred from our City ambulances to hospital emergency department staff quickly and safely. Four years ago, the City committed to provide a dedicated hospital levy to go towards three projects: 1) a Special Care Nursery, 2) an expanded and modernized emergency room and triage area, and 3) more mental health beds. In 2023, the Special Care Nursery officially opened and will now provide world-class care for our tiniest patients. Moving into 2024, the hospital will see the groundbreaking of the Emergency Department Expansion project and move forward with a new, diagnostic imaging center offsite from the hospital – enabling better access to care.

Affordability and the City Budget

Aside from housing, the other hot topic for 2023 was the City budget.

The 2024 budget saw an 8.52 per cent property tax increase for homeowners in 2024, with a projected 9.80 per cent in 2025, 8.04 per cent in 2026, and 7.35 per cent in 2027.

This budget was made especially difficult in 2023 due to inflation, high interest rates, population growth and the ongoing effects of the pandemic.

There’s also a mismatch between the services we, as a municipality, are expected to provide and the revenues we have available to pay for them. According to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), current cost-sharing arrangements mean that about $4 billion a year of municipal property tax revenues go towards subsidizing provincial health and social services responsibilities. The amount of downloading, underfunding and the lack of financial and revenue levers that municipalities have access to was evident in 2023. For example, changes to Provincial housing legislation, through Bill 23: More Homes Built Faster Act, reduced the amount cities can collect in development charges.

That is why I support AMO’s ask of the Government of Ontario to sit down with municipalities and work together on a social and economic prosperity review. We need to work together on a joint review of revenues, costs and financial risks and a detailed analysis of Ontario’s infrastructure investment and service delivery needs. Let’s create a new fiscal framework that builds the strong and prosperous communities that are the foundation of Ontario’s economy.

We have been fortunate to receive $53.3 million worth of grants from the Federal and Provincial governments from January 2023 to end of January 2024, according to the City’s Intergovernmental Relations team. These grants will help with things such as incentivizing new housing developments, infrastructure upgrades, enhancing public transit, implementing Next Generation 911 and continuing to work towards decreasing ambulance off-load times at Guelph General Hospital.

Heading into 2024

Heading into 2024, I will continue to focus my energy on creating more housing, working with the County on tackling homelessness, and ensuring that I do everything I can to help with affordability for Guelphites.


Have you ever changed your mind on an issue? Of course, you have. I’d be disingenuous to suggest otherwise. Politicians change their minds on things too. Oh, some will call it a “flip flop” or worse, but I can remember a few times when I’ve changed my mind on different subjects that have been before me. Sometimes it’s new information, or a delegate speaks about the issue before Council, or seeing how others in similar circumstances have approached an issue.

Over the Christmas and Holiday season, I took some time to listen to what people in Guelph are experiencing. Let me tell you, the number one issue is affordability. The second, and closely aligned with the first, is housing. The two are clearly linked.

I asked for people’s stories. Most shared how they are on the brink of not being able to afford their homes or apartments. That their businesses were about to go under. That it was no longer being two pay cheques away from serious problems, but one.

As mayor, I have an obligation to be factual, and I have an obligation to thoughtfully consider what is under my control, or in my toolbox, to help people. Especially when it comes to affordability and housing. It is abundantly clear; the citizens and businesses of Guelph cannot afford an almost 10 per cent budget increases in the future. That is not okay.

When cities are faced with strong issues, it requires a strong team to tackle them. However, to set the tone and the pace it needs a strong mayor.

Therefore, effective today, I am announcing that I will use the strong mayor powers throughout the rest of this term.

First, I will be signing a mayoral order directing staff to establish the 2025 confirmation budget at a property tax impact rate of under four per cent. With the budget confirmation occurring nearing the end of this year, I feel it’s prudent, under these extraordinary circumstances, to set this goal early in the year to allow for a long runway for staff to follow this direction. And for myself and Council to be hyper-aware of the spending decisions and the priorities laid before us during the rest of this year.

Let me be clear, this will mean difficult conversations about how this may impact City services or plans over the next several years. These impacts may be extremely difficult to accept. Not only for Council, not only for the community, but potentially even for me. I’m giving these directions because I have high expectations for staff and Council, but I’m confident you can reach them.

I want these expectations to apply and include all outside agencies and boards that report into the City of Guelph with their own budgets. So, you too can choose to join in on what, I believe, is our collective responsibility to bring about affordability for our community. I look forward to hearing from and working with each one of you on how you can achieve this.

Secondly, I will be issuing a mayoral order to direct staff to work on identifying strategic real estate partnerships on underutilized City-owned assets, specifically focused on City-owned surface parking lots, which can be transformed into housing for our community.

Third, I will use strong mayor powers to direct staff to present to Council the logistics required to provide a temporary structured encampment site for those currently experiencing homelessness. To be clear, this directive will ask for potential sites, identify potential funding (including the option for community fundraising) for the purchase of tiny homes and include a discussion on City services. This mayoral directive will be contingent upon partners from the County, local healthcare providers and other stakeholders, committing to the required ongoing supports for those using a potential site.

I know that what I just said may surprise some of you. Please know that choosing to use the strong mayor powers was not easy, but I am using the tools at my disposal to accelerate solutions during these trying times. I am at peace with this decision. Why? Because these decisions will not change who I am. I am still committed to working alongside everyone. I’m still the same Cam. As your mayor, I am confident it is the right thing to do.

Thank you for being here today. I’m happy to take any questions you may have.