The Edmonton Community Development Company (ECDC) has successfully reached their goal of acquiring and demolishing 10 problem properties for their Project 10 initiative.
Anna Bubel, a long-time resident of McCauley and researcher for the ECDC, assisted in acquiring these properties through community networking. She learned about a deal that didn’t go through in Parkdale a couple of years ago, where the house was left abandoned. With some investigation and persistence, this became the organization’s ninth property. The last property acquired had been on the ECDC’s radar, and when it was listed on MLS (Multiple Listing Service), an offer was made and accepted.
In 2018, through conversations with McCauley and Alberta Avenue community members, the ECDC discovered that derelict properties were residents’ biggest problem. Neighbours were exposed to drug activities, risk of fires, and decreased property values. This caused residents to leave the community, creating further neighbourhood disinvestment.
The ECDC made Project 10 a priority and set a goal to acquire and demolish 10 problem properties in Edmonton’s core neighbourhoods and build new homes for families to purchase. However, buying these properties was not an easy task due to challenges during both acquisition and demolition.
Bubel says, “Acquisition has been difficult. There are hundreds of potential inventories that are not listed, so it’s not a straightforward process.” Some owners hold on to their property, thinking it will increase in value, leaving it abandoned for many years.
The ECDC’s first purchase revealed the complexities of demolishing a property. The property was a Court of Queen’s Bench foreclosure, which means no inspection occurs, and the property is sold as-is. Karen Gingras, executive director of the ECDC, initially contracted a hazmat assessment company to check for asbestos and lead. To their surprise, they discovered drugs, needles, biological waste, and highly volatile chemicals inside the house. The organization had to hire a team that was knowledgeable in handling these materials and understood the risks to their safety. All of this came at a cost, making the demolition process a challenge.
Project 10 was a proof of concept for the ECDC. The organization performed a study on the socio-economic costs of problem properties and recognized the urgency of their revitalization efforts. Bubel says, “We cannot stop with 10 properties; we need to be relentless with getting these properties torn down.” Ten properties are just the beginning.
Seeing a derelict property torn down gives the residents hope for a vibrant future. There is a lot of work to be done between purchasing, demolition, and selling a property. The drawn-out process can make it feel like change is out of reach. However, it was a moment to celebrate during a recent walk-through of the first ECDC property that will soon be ready for market. Bubel says, “I’m really proud. I know this really makes a difference.”