Lessons From London

Earlier this week, a delegation from Guelph (consisting of myself, Mayor Farbridge, Councillor Wettstein, Jim Riddell, Director of Community Design and Development Services and Katie Nasswetter, senior development planner) traveled to London, Ontario to talk with local staff and politicians about implementation of their Near Campus Neighbourhoods strategy.   The goal was to learn from their mistakes and successes, and model what is working (and not working) in the rental housing by-law amendments that are being proposed for Guelph.

It was well worth the trip down the 401 from my perspective.  London released its Near Campus Neighbourhood strategy document in late 2009.  Copy can be downloaded from:  http://www.london.ca/d.aspx?s=/Planning/studentstrategy.htm

The implementation of a new “Residential Rental” licencing by-law came into effect just three short weeks ago on March 1, 2010.

Some of the lessons learned during this Q & A excursion:

  • get renters, neighbourhood groups, landlords, etc. on board early
  • keep emphasis focused on safety and neighbourhood stability, not on behavioural issues (there are other by-laws already dealing with this)
  • increase fines for non-compliance
  • clearly define what type and where appropriate forms of intensification belong
  • push density to transit-supportive locations
  • little tolerance for unlicensed properties ($125/day fine for not getting your license)
  • make licensing procedure easy to do for property owners/landlords and keep the fee reasonable
  • applications for variances that attempt to legalize an existing illegal rental will NOT be supported by city staff
  • licensing application is a self-registration process, but the city will randomly inspect 15% of the rental properties each year
  • property owners/landlords must provide a copy of their Residence Rental Licence to tenants
  • a “Residential Rental” is any building with 3 or more rental “units”.

Some of the above, Guelph is already doing or proposing.  That’s good news.   The rest is still to come…soon.