Problem properties are littered throughout the city, often causing unsafe or undesired living conditions.
“A problem property is a chronic offender. It’s where there’s been a multitude of issues,” said John Lazaruk, team lead with the city’s community standards branch. Lazaruk explained problem properties can include ongoing conditions such as derelict vehicles, illegal suites, or a neglected or abandoned property.
During the Problem Properties Discussion and Update meeting on May 24 at the Santa Maria Goretti Centre, Lazaruk said the city has taken a multi-agency approach to tackle the issues. They collaborate with bylaw enforcement, Edmonton Police Service (EPS), Alberta Health Services (AHS), the Landlord and Tenant Advisory Board, SCAN (Safer Communities and Neighbourhood Act), Edmonton Fire Rescue Services, and other city departments.
“As of this morning, city wide, I have 121 properties that are considered chronic offending private properties,” Lazaruk said. The task force brings in people from AHS, bylaw officers, zoning officials, or EPS, depending on the situation. “We have done 431 inspections on the properties. We’ve issued 23 tickets, 37 municipal government act orders for graffiti, and another four other municipal government act orders. Twelve violation tickets for various infractions, and one ticket for not having a valid business license,” said Lazaruk. He explained it’s a methodical approach and they hope to get to each complaint one by one, but it will take time.
Lazaruk asks community members to report problem properties or they may go unnoticed by the task force. “That’s the value of meeting like this. People like you to report them to me or to the police,” said Lazaruk. Complaints can be anonymous, but if it ends up in court without a witness, they cannot lay a charge.
Community members have many ways to report problem properties, including online forms, but a common sentiment from the meeting is that the process moves too slowly. One resident said, “I email the city and they don’t respond.” He is unaware if his complaints have been received and said the website is difficult to navigate.
Another couple followed the process, but said they had little luck. Their neighbour had been living in a trailer with an unruly dog, so they “called 311. Talked to the city. We’ve talked to animal control. They’ve come out. Taken a look,” the couple said. “[The neighbour] has been fined. Got them out of the trailer, but now they are living in the garage. It’s been a year of consistent calling.”
The task force asks people to be persistent, to keep reporting problems, and to be patient. Call 311 to report problem properties or visit edmonton.ca/problemproperties.
Stephen works in broadcasting and writes for fun. He can be seen walking through the neighbourhood with a bag covered in pins and filled with books and notepads.
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