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Guelph mayor says he will invoke strong mayor powers to limit tax hike, set up tiny homes

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Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie announced he’ll use the "strong mayor powers” to fast-track three pressing affordability concerns in the city: the tax hike, housing and homelessness.  

This will be Guthrie’s first time using the powers granted to him and around 50 other mayors across the province last year.

The mayor said it’s all about getting solutions tabled sooner rather than later. He made the announcement at a state of the city address Thursday.

“Instead of me having to go to council, have a two or three month period where things come back later on, it means that information will actually just come a lot quicker to council,” he told CTV News, following the announcement.

Guthrie wants to see the 2025 tax increase clawed back from the proposed 10 per cent to four per cent, an assessment of city-owned land to see what could be used for more housing, and find out what it would take to set up a temporary tiny home encampment for people experiencing homelessness.

“When it comes to homelessness and housing and affordability issues, I think it’s prudent to be able to try and to move those things along faster so that the government knows kind of where they need to steer, and go towards. But also the public can see action being taken,” he said.

Some were caught off guard by Guthrie’s decision.

“To make an announcement in a private audience without any consultation with any of those stakeholders, including your own colleagues on council, that is weak leadership,” Councillor Leanne Caron said.

Councillor Phil Allt told CTV News he was “disappointed that council was not made aware of this proposal and we couldn’t discuss it and have input from staff on it.”

He expressed concerns about the tiny home encampment idea.

“We must recognize that tiny homes are only an interim solution until the federal and the provincial governments and private developers earnestly engage in affordable housing,” said Allt.

Some of the factors that need to be discussed, he added, are the proposed tiny home location, regulations and environmental impacts.

The mayor insists those conversations will still happen.

“All I’m asking for is information to come before all of council,” explained Guthrie. “There’s nothing about that that’s undemocratic at all.”

As for the budget portion of the mayor’s proposal, he said city staff will present a report showing the impact of a four per cent tax hike at November’s budget meeting.

At that time councillors will be able to suggest amendments.

The mayor would have the option to veto those amendments in the next phase, but it too could be overridden by a “supermajority” made up of two-third of council.

Ultimately, council will have a say in the final decision.

Guthrie is among around 50 mayors across the province who have been granted strong mayor powers by the province.

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