A snapshot of Guelph’s evolving housing and transit system


Discussing the developing image of the Royal City with Mayor Cam Guthrie

As Guelph continues to garner accolades for its low unemployment rate, investing potential, and the quality of the real estate market, there has been rapid expansion and development within the city.  

In an interview with The Ontarion, Mayor Guthrie discussed the challenges and opportunities regarding Guelph’s future as the city continues to grow.

Guelph is one of the fastest growing cities in Ontario and one of the top 10 fastest growing cities in Canada.

“With that in mind, there’s a lot to celebrate, but at the same time, there’s also some issues that come with that,” said Mayor Guthrie

Population

Guelph is one of the cities outlined in the Places To Grow Act (PTGA), which was introduced in 2005 by the Ontario government to bolster growth in cities across the province. A full plan released the following year outlining growth targets for individual cities.

“By 2031, the province wants Guelph to be at 175,000 people and we are currently at 132,000 now. By 2041, they want us to be at 191,000,” explained the Mayor.

With these benchmarks set out by the provincial government, there are substantial hurdles that have to be overcome by city council and municipal planners (who are guided by a document known as Prosperity 2020) to approach housing, transportation, and employment concerns across the city.

South end expansion

Even as Guelph continues to grow, one of the greater influences is its relative proximity to Toronto. As housing prices continue to rise at a meteoric rate, with the average house price sitting at $916,567, according to an article published by The Toronto Star, the housing bubble has caused prices to rise in Guelph.

For Mayor Guthrie, the goal is to help out Guelph homeowners and those looking to purchase a home without directly interfering in the free housing market. When strategizing on keeping housing affordable, the mayor said there is not a single simple solution.

One of the unique challenges for Guelph is that, currently, there are only two primary pieces of developable land in the borders of the city.

The York lands, where the old jail used to sit, is owned by the provincial government, which only leaves the area between Clair Road and Maltby Road, which acts as the southern border to the city proper.

“When people see a lot of growth in the south end, it’s there by default because it’s the only green space available left in Guelph. You are going to see major development happening there probably over the next 20 years,” said Mayor Guthrie. “I would imagine, of the 40,000 to 50,000 people the province wants us to have here over the next while, I can see at least half of that being in [that area].”

Downtown

Outside of new developments in the south end, considerable development has also continued to occur in the downtown core.

“When I said to you we’re 132,000 people right now, by 2041, we want to be 190,000, our growth targets speak specifically to the downtown core, that we would like to see around 9,000 people of that new growth target amount be people living in the downtown,” Mayor Guthrie explained.

The downtown core is being developed through a specialized plan called the Downtown Secondary Plan.

Transit

Apart from being one of the cultural centres of Guelph, the downtown core also acts as the transportation hub for the rest of the city.

Once the fall semester begins, the City of Guelph is receiving a transit system overhaul, with existing routes being reconfigured to provide a more efficient system, according to an article from GuelphToday.

Outside of the city, however, greater transportation networks are being strategized to capitalize on Guelph’s position in the heart of the “innovation corridor,” in between Waterloo and Toronto.

Mayor Guthrie said that, by working with other mayors in neighbouring municipalities, a more efficient transportation network can be put in place to cut down on the travel time between Guelph, Toronto, and Waterloo.

“What we’re trying to accomplish is making sure that if someone wants to live in Guelph and they land a job in Toronto, I don’t want them sitting on the 401 for two hours each day,” he said.

The current transportation approach is a two step process. The first is a consistent “all day two-way GO service” established between Guelph and Toronto.

One of the difficulties, as Mayor Guthrie explained during his Feb. 8 presentation to U of G’s Central Student Association, is that establishing a frequent GO Train schedule between Guelph Central Station and Union Station is difficult, because most of the train lines between Guelph and Toronto are operated primarily as freight lines, which adds an additional difficulty in transporting passengers between the two cities.

“If we could get our people moving between Toronto, Guelph, Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge, we believe that will create huge economic prosperity for Ontario. That’s why we’re all working together to paint this picture for the provincial government that this is the way to go for moving skilled people back and forth between these different cities, but still giving them a choice on where they want to live,” said Mayor Guthrie.

As Guelph continues to grow, city council is continuously looking for feedback from the community on the state of the city.

Photo by Dana Bellamy/The Ontarion.

1 Comment

  • Andrew Somerville April 18, 2017 8:51 am

    Thanks for the high level update. I’d be interested in more details about affordable homes for families with incomes less than $100,000. Will the city support development of smaller homes? It seems like bigger is better these days, but that doesn’t help everyone except the wealthy.

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