Guelph considering public space use bylaw to address housing crisis, encampments

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

Guelph city council held a special meeting Feb. 14, to hear delegations related to the proposed Public Space Use bylaw. As directed in January, city staff prepared the draft bylaw to address safety concerns regarding encampments and related activities on lands owned or operated by the municipality.

After hearing more than 25 delegations and reviewing significant community feedback, council proposed a series of resolutions to help address the housing crisis, mitigate safety concerns for those living in encampments, and establish parameters for the use of public space for shelter.

The plan includes advocating for provincial and federal dollars and support from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) to address the need for greater municipal funding to deal with housing instability issues, prompt legislative reform to address public space use by-laws, and secure greater healthcare funding to address the crisis.

Staff has been directed to:

  • establish a plan to engage members of the community, including those with lived experience in encampment settings and the downtown community, on the use of public space for shelter
  • review insights and outcomes from the Health and Housing Symposium planned for early April, which is hosted by Wellington County (the County)
  • work with Wellington County, front-line workers and unhoused community members to enhance the encampments on city property and road allowances operating procedure to include fire prevention education for community members staying in encampments

Council also requested that the County supply additional resources, tools and data related to daily availability and access to permanent shelter for unhoused people.

The next steps will be to develop a plan for public consultation on the public space use bylaw and consider outcomes from Wellington County’s Health and Housing Symposium and implications of an expected ruling in Kingston before bringing the issue back to council for further discussion at a future date.


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