Beyond visual eyesores detracting from the beauty of our communities, many of these properties are left to become safety hazards and can become magnets of crime and disorder.
The banks, landlords and speculators profit from it while neighbourhoods deal with the disorder. An ounce of bylaw and proactive action can be much more effective and efficient and prevent an excessive drain on our Edmonton Police resources.
Councillor Ashley Salvador brought forward the following motion to City Council in December that was supported unanimously:
That as part of the upcoming Problem Properties Initiative Update that will be brought forward to Community and Public Services Committee Q1 2022, Administration provide information on the following efforts to address residential and commercial problem properties:
Metrics on the prevalence of problem properties and existing interjurisdictional efforts to address them.
Options for additional enforcement tools for both tenant-occupied and vacant/derelict problem properties, including but not limited to tax subclasses.
Options to expedite the redevelopment of problem properties, including partnerships with housing providers.
Advocacy opportunities for Council to strengthen provincial legislation affecting problem properties.
Opportunities to access federal resources related to the underlying causes of problem properties
Policy and problem properties are a major issue across Edmonton and ward papastew. The police alone cannot be responsible for addressing crime and disorder in our neighbourhoods.
Sometimes direct action and community solutions are the fastest solutions. In my personal life when dealing with theft originating from a problem property down the street; I was told by a police officer that working with my neighbours to repeatedly complain to city bylaw against the negligent property owner would achieve results much faster than the police would be able to. In another instance, with no support from the police after months of complaints against a drug dealer who was bringing violence and disorder into our building, I helped organize a rent strike that convinced our landlord to remove the problem tenant. We must get creative and organized as a community. I heard a story from a former City Councillor that he worked with neighbours to go and shame the bank quietly profiting from the mortgage payments from another problem property.
Here is the article from Rat Creek Press:
City to address problem properties: The Problem Properties Initiative Update may help with the issue
Ashlynn Chand: DECEMBER 19, 2021
On Dec 6, city council unanimously voted in a new motion about problem properties brought forth by Ward Métis Coun. Ashley Salvador.
The Problem Properties Initiative Update means that city administration will provide information on how pervasive the issue is and what’s being done about it, other enforcement methods such as tax subclasses, ways to speed up property redevelopment, and possible federal resources related to underlying causes of these properties, along with opportunities to impact provincial legislation.
Salvador said she brought forth this motion because of the countless concerns she’s heard while campaigning and while she has been in office. She added that Edmontonians are concerned about the toll derelict properties are taking on the health and safety of community members.
“We actually need to know how many there are, where exactly they are, so that we can properly address the issue,” Salvador said. “[The motion] also looks to explore other tools that are in our tool belt for addressing them.”
Savaldor says she believes they haven’t looked at every single tool within their belt.
“I think that there’s real action that can come out of this motion, which is why I wanted to bring it forward very quickly,” Salvador told me.
During council, Salvador emphasized that problem properties are a symptom of a lack of affordable housing. Salvador said that in the long term, city council will need to look at providing safe and adequate housing.
“I do know that there’s a lot of concerns around new homes being built that might not necessarily be up to snuff and to standard,” Salvador told me. “On the enforcement side, making sure that the homes that are being built in these communities are safe and we’re building what’s written down on paper.”
Ward papastew Coun. Michael Janz was enthusiastic about this motion. Janz said there are concerns around snow removal and mosquito nests in vacant properties. Janz also challenged Salvador’s notion that the cause of problem properties is a lack of affordable housing.
“It seems in some cases in my area, the cause of problem properties [is] greed,” Janz said during the council meeting. “It’s land speculators sitting on property and not wanting to do anything for a decade.”
Salvador said her intention was to keep the scope of the motion wide so they can explore a spectrum of options, such as the use of tax classes.
“If we’re able to apply different tax classes to vacant and derelict sites, it can actually encourage and incentivize the sale and redevelopment of them, so that they don’t just sit there kind of boarded up in our neighbourhoods,” Salvador explained during the interview. “They can actually turn into properties that are actually going to serve the neighbourhood, bring value to the community, and uplift the area.”
Ward Nakota Isga Coun. Andrew Knack says he believes regardless of the results of this motion, a new tax subclass for vacant and derelict properties is needed.
“There should be financial penalties for these properties for not taking care of what they need to,” Knack said during the meeting. “We shouldn’t keep having to spend more money of our own on enforcement; let’s penalize those who are doing it.”
Ward O-day’min Coun. Anne Stevenson agreed that vacant and derelict sites are issues in her ward as well. Stevenson notes there are concerns from adjacent neighbours surrounding enforcement of flagging and following up on these properties and looks forward to coming up with a strategy to lessen the burden on community members.
Salvador said applying financial pressure to property owners or landlords who refuse to give up problem properties is one option.
“I think it takes a certain level of political will to follow through on some of those actions,” Salvador said.