Many of us were shaken this September by a string of news stories that emerged from our neighbourhood. The world briefly peered into our backyards to see an alleged terrorist slam his car into a police officer at a football game, and then rampage down Jasper Avenue in a cube van.
But for many of us, this was not the most violent or troubling incident of the weekend, but a cornerstone to a news cycle that included three bodies recovered from problem properties in a week.
These properties have been subject to decades of complaint. One of the properties was known to the highest levels of government, from many of our neighbours here in the inner city. This property was known to the Justice Minister, Chief of Police, Mayor’s Office, City Council, as well as the Federal Department of Justice, and the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC), and the Civil Forfeiture Office.
The other property was known to the city and the province.
No order of government has truly and effectively dealt with the problems these two properties create in our community. So these as well as many other problem properties continue to plague our neighbourhood.
The city appears to be bombarding the area with social workers and applying window dressing (or vinyl siding) in lieu of an effective demolition and redevelopment program. But we don’t need to talk about our feelings at yet another no-action meeting, we need these properties demolished and redeveloped.
The endless compliance exercises that the city has undertaken on these properties are clearly not effective. The city must take strong, permanent measures that will uproot organized crime from the inner city housing market, provide individuals with dignity and respect in their housing, and ensure that the properties are fully demolished and rebuilt, not superficially repaired and returned to market.
The City of Edmonton, Alberta Justice, Edmonton Police Service (EPS), and PPSC are responsible to provide peace, order, and good government in our city neighbourhoods. But the fact is, so far no action has been taken to close these well-known properties permanently.
According to the Police Act and the Municipal Government Act, it’s up to the respective authorities to provide “adequate and effective policing”, “good government”, and to “develop and maintain safe and viable communities”. In my opinion, the province has done nothing to remedy this non-compliance, and appears to be willfully disregarding their obligations and responsibilities with respect to problem properties, as articulated by these acts.
The various authorities have put on a communications show for the people who complain, but have done precious little to bring resolution to some of the worst properties, many of which are owned and/or managed by criminal organizations and well known for continual health and safety violations.
It’s troubling that in some cases, EPS and PPSC haven’t considered tertiary bail grounds, resulting in the release of certain criminals without geographic restrictions that would prevent return to the communities where they committed their crimes. Failure to restrict attendance further victimizes entire neighborhoods, while putting the administration of the justice system into considerable disrepute.
Nobody wants to live in a house where a murder has taken place. By not demolishing these buildings, the entire community is retraumatized as they forever stand as a grim reminder to the futility of complaining and the ineptitude and complacency of government.
There are several examples of properly managed low-income housing developments in our community built and engineered to provide people with safe homes and lives lived with dignity and respect. We have the capacity to build and renew our neighbourhood in a manner that is inclusive to everyone.
Redevelopment can generate employment for ticketed, safety-trained workers that properly construct sites into homes which respect human dignity, engage with communities, and improve the quality of life for everyone nearby.
Vinyl siding thrown on the side of a mouldy shack with rickety scaffolding is what “compliance” has got us.
We deserve better.
Featured Image: Problem properties are a continuing problem in the inner city. | Rebecca Lippiatt