Press Releases

Guelph Chamber lays expectations for County's Housing Symposium 

Jan 29, 2024

January 29, 2024 - Guelph Chamber lays expectations for County's Housing Symposium 

The County of Wellington is hosting a housing symposium this week. For many in the community,including myself, the symposium is a much-needed opportunity to define the complex problem of homelessness, addiction, and mental health in our city, and develop a broad plan of action.

Some concerns have been raised about the lack of transparency and information around the symposium’s agenda, participation, and overall objectives (see for example Adam Donaldson’srecent article). While I share some of these concerns, I also have a mandate that requires me to relentlessly pursue positive progress. In that spirit I offer the following:

It is important for the business community that the symposium be successful. The complex challenge at the center of the symposium is one that affects businesses in Guelph. Businesses are community members who care. They are individuals with families and friends who are impactedby these challenges. And yes, they are people who invest in this city and whose businesses are negatively impacted by this growing challenge – especially in the downtown.

From my perspective there are three critical expectations of the symposium:

1. ​A transparent Plan of Action

The most critical aspect of the symposium is the development of a Plan of Action that we canhave confidence in and that is responsive to the complex problem in front of us. To achieve this, not only must there be a credible plan of action, but there must also be opportunities for thecommunity to understand what the plan is and be able to access information about it. Key questions in this area are:

  • What is the vision? What is the plan to get there? What are the necessary priorities?
  • What’s missing or what are the gaps that still need to be determined?
2. Clear accountability

Once we have a plan of action it will be critical to know how the execution of that plan isprogressing. No one person, institution nor plan is perfect – there are no expectations that the symposium will create perfection. However, our community does need to know how things are progressing, and when inevitable problems arise, how do those with responsibility for executing the plan respond and adapt, accordingly and effectively. Key questions in this area are:

  • Who is doing what?
  • Who is responsible for making decisions and making changes to the plan?
3. Community participation

No one in our community wants to be a spectator in this effort. Many people have a strong desire to contribute, and many others have concerns that need to be heard if not addressed. Most importantly, there is a rich pool of assets in this community that can make a meaningfulcontribution. Creating opportunities for community participation is critical. Key questions in this area are:

  • How do community members have their voices heard and their concerns addressed?
  • How are community members engaged and leveraged?

It is my sincere desire to see the County of Wellington led housing symposium be successful. Irespectfully offer these ideas and expectations as a productive contribution on behalf of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce network.

To learn more about our Community-led Housing Campaign, click here.

Shakiba Shayani

President & CEO, Guelph Chamber of Commerce