Lodging Houses

I am opening a new blog heading about Lodging Houses.  There has been a lot of discussion on this topic lately in Ward 5.  Let’s open the dialogue….

But first, here is some background on why, how and where we have Lodging Houses:

http://guelph.ca/living.cfm?smocid=1886

To start the discussion, here is a post added to the W5 blog this morning (followed by my response).

From Walter:

Lodging House Issue Ward 5

Quick question…..why will Ward 5 Councillors not take a position on the Ward 5 Lodging House issue currently facing the City of Guelph – as per the meeting at City Hall March 11th, 2009?

It would seem Ward 5 Councillors either need to support the residents of Ward 5 or disapprove of their actions.

My response:

Hi Walter – that’s a fair question. I hope the answer below helps to set the record straight.

Your question is really two questions:

1) Do I support the neighbourhood in their opposition of the case-specific 29 Hands Drive application?
2) Do I support the neighbourhood in amending the by-laws of the city to protect and preserve quality of life in residential neighbourhoods?

The first question is one I cannot, will not and should not answer. It’s not that I don’t want to — I just can’t and won’t — sorry about that. It is a case-specific dispute related to two applicants and the legal interpretation of the Lodging House certification process. A councillor should never take a public position on a matter of potential litigation between two property owners. It would be inappropriate and unwise. It compromises the city and city staff. I have no authority (and neither does Council) to negate a staff decision on a matter within their delegated jurisdiction.

The second question I am quite comfortable to answer. I absolutely support the neighbourhood in recommending changes to any and all city by-laws that will further enhance the protection of quality of life in our residential neighbourhoods. I have stated this publicly on several occasions.

I am currently working directly with the Rickson Ridge neighbourhood group and city staff to recommend improvement in the enforcement of noise, parking and property standards by-laws. This small working group has come up with some very constructive ideas to make some positive changes.

I also believe that (as a result of the current Hands Drive situation) we have identified several potential deficiencies in the implementation of our Lodging House certification process and the wording of our Shared Rental Housing policies. These need to be addressed. I support the neighbourhood in this action and will follow through with my commitment at the March 11th meeting to bring this matter to Council through the appropriate political and administrative process. This does not mean that I support throwing out the by-law. Well-run, well-maintained, well-spaced, legal, certified, lodging houses have a place in our city.

I do understand the sentiments in your neighbourhood. My initiation into municipal politics was as a neighbourhood activist dealing with a rezoning application for a high density off-campus student residence. I have four lodging houses within two blocks of my house, where my husband and I are raising a family. I know what a good lodging house and a bad lodging house look like and what impact they can have on a neighbourhood — good and bad.

On a related note, I have serious concerns about the proliferation of “four-up-two-down” houses that can legally exist on a whole street,without any separation distance. We, as a Council, need to look at this concurrently with potential amendments to the Lodging House certification process.

I hope this answers your question(s). I am happy to continue the dialogue with you and your neighbourhood and look forward to some positive solutions.

Leanne

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3 thoughts on “Lodging Houses

  1. Reply from Walter:

    Leanne

    Thank you for the speedy and direct reply.

    Two more quick questions:

    1. I read the description of “What do Councillor Do Anyway” on the blog. Good information. However, you missed one very important point, “Who do Councilors Work For”? The City of Guelph or the residents of the Ward they represent?

    2. I respect your position on not wanting to take sides, however last I checked Canada and Guelph were a democracy…..and majority rules. Why would a Councillor in an elected position appear to turn away from the overwhelming majority of the residents of the Ward they work for? That one stumps me! Further why would an elected Councillor appear to side with an out of town “ absentee” owner who has the power to directly reduce property values in the Ward and forever change the complexion of the Ward itself………and not long time residents of the Ward. Some of which are the original owners of their property?

    Thanks
    Walter

  2. Thanks for the follow up questions — I hope this keeps the dialogue open and interactive. I have moved the subject of “Lodging Houses” to the main page as a heading of its own so it will be easier for others to find.

    Answers to your questions:

    1. Both equally. Geographically, the city is broken up into wards for the purpose of representation so that you don’t have to call 12 people if you have an issue or concern. Each ward has its own unique character and we represent those interests when we come to the “horseshoe”. However, most of the decisions we make are not ward specific, (ie. budgets, library, infrastructure, economic development, etc.) and we must also have an eye for the community as a whole when voting.

    In the 2 1/2 years I have been on Council, I can’t think of a Ward 5-focused issue that has come to Council where I have had to choose between voting with a Ward 5 hat or a city-wide hat. In every situation, what’s good for Ward 5 is good for the whole city, and vice versa.

    The Lodging House issue is a good example. If an amendment is made to the current LH by-law, it would apply to the whole city and should benefit every ward.

    2. I have previously stated that I am in favour of making amendments to the Lodging House by-law and certification process. I’ve stated publicly that I am willing to initiate the process on behalf of my constituents. How can this possibly be seen as unsupportive?

    I must reiterate though, that I cannot take a position on the specific case between two property owners where potential litigation may occur. That does not mean that I am siding with an out-of-town landlord over an in-town property owner. I am not taking sides, period. I have no authority to interfere or intervene in a dispute of this nature.

    In conclusion, you are quite correct that, in a true democracy, majority rules. I represent ALL constituents in my ward, not just the ones who voted (32%) and not just the ones who voted for me. I represent everyone. It is important to listen to both sides of every issue.

    And I cannot go outside the boundary of the law — ie. it is against the Ontario Planning Act to refuse a legal permitted use for a property. We can regulate lodging houses (ie. parking, separation distance, etc.) and we can enforce additional controls (ie. noise, garbage, etc.), but we cannot refuse them. It doesn’t matter if I agree or disagree with provincial law, it is my responsibility to work within it.

  3. July 28, 2009 UPDATE

    Council voted this week to begin work on amendments to the city’s Lodging House and Two-Unit (accessory apartment) regulations.

    Specifically, city staff will be
    – developing a business licensing process for lodging houses
    – altering the requirement for the registration of two-unit residences every three years
    – developing an improved application process for licensing of lodging houses, and
    – reviewing regulations related to two-unit houses to address concerns about four-up-two-down (non-owner occupied) houses

    We still have work to do, but this is step in the right direction. All tenants need to feel safe in their accommodation while living in Guelph. And both tenants and homeowners want to live in neighbourhoods where quality of life is respected. Hopefully, these next steps will help us to achieve our community goals of being a welcoming, inclusive, safe and diverse city.

    I do not have an exact date when the new regulations will be coming back to Council, but I will post here when the time comes….

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