Press Releases

Leadership and housing: doing better means doing it differently

A letter from Shakiba Shayani, President & CEO of the Guelph Chamber | Jun 26, 2024

Most recent political discussions suggest that 'everything is broken.' While I don't wholly agree, it's true many of us face frustrations with every level of government, public institutions, and other systems falling short of our expectations. For some, this breeds disappointment and apathy. Despite this growing discontent, I continue to see this as an opportunity for us to come together as a community to leverage our collective strengths and passions and forge a better future. 
A year ago, we launched our Community-Led Guelph Housing Coalition, seeking political leadership and a clear plan of action to address one of our community's most pressing challenges: housing. From meeting emergency housing challenges to increasing affordable and market housing options, our diverse coalition recognized the urgent need for a coherent, coordinated, transparent, and comprehensive approach.  

While we have yet to make headway on this fundamental issue, our efforts have elicited improvements to planning and analysis, on relationships between non-profit providers and private sector partners, and has catalyzed and amplified ongoing efforts by many others in our community.  

The lack of progress on a new approach was on display in the recent discussions on tiny homes. The Tiny Homes Coalition is a passionate and committed group of volunteer contributors with a clear and well-developed idea that can be a key part of our collective approach to address homelessness, mental health, and addiction.  

Our local governments are compelled to act, but their efforts remain stuck in the realm of current inadequate structures for action. We must stop tackling housing challenges and evaluating solutions in isolation. 

What needs to be considered is how tiny homes (or any option really) is anchored in a full ecosystem of interventions required to address complex challenges. Tiny homes are likely part of the solution, and to ensure its success, we need to determine how it fits into the bigger picture of increasing housing options and supply across the continuum. Only then can we place the necessary resources, people, and ideas to execute and act; including working with other levels of government to secure funding.  

Imagine if Guelph had a central point for information gathering and decision-making, like a Housing Commissioner, as we suggested a year ago. This role would serve as a primary contact to identify and address issues such as the current debate on insufficient student housing and emergency housing options, working to coordinate and activate different solutions, and community assets. The Housing Commissioner would align efforts, secure additional resources and funding, and develop and implement a comprehensive community action plan. They would have the authority to convene and coordinate collaboration and be resourced to communicate regularly and with transparency.  

I want to stress that this systemic and structural challenge is not a criticism of any individual, government, or institution. It’s clear that the current structures and systems are insufficient for the significant challenges and opportunities we face as a community. As the old adage suggests, the recipe for better means not continuing to do what obviously is not working.  

We need concerted, purposeful political leadership—not to own or be blamed for the problem, but to bring together the commitment, assets, and actions required to move forward. To get us unstuck. 
I express my deepest gratitude to everyone who continues to contribute their time, expertise, and passion to making Guelph a better place. Your efforts are invaluable, and together, we can achieve more. 
Thank you. 

Shakiba Shayani 
President & CEO