Calgary’s derelict building definition may be getting an overhaul

A notice of motion for the June 22 Priorities and Finance Committee meeting may result in a better definition of what it means for a structure to be derelict. ETHAN WARD/ FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

The cracks are starting to show on Calgary’s policy for derelict buildings.

According to Coun. Peter Demong, the derelict identification situation needs to be rectified.

Councillor Demong has put forward a notice of motion for the Tuesday, July 20 Priorities and Finance Committee meeting. The motion is asking for the city to reconfigure its classification and definitions of derelict buildings.

Once that definition is made clear, there may be a possibility of having varying tax rates for different rundown properties.

Problems with definition

One of the main reasons for this proposed change is that the current system doesn’t consider the health of the person who owns the derelict property.

“And whereas in some instances the owners or residents of these properties may require social or mental health supports. Now therefore it be resolved that Administration conduct a review of municipal bylaws with a specific focus on gaps, including a provincial legislation review to determine opportunities to address concerns associated with problem properties,” the notice of motion reads.

Councillor Demong said that a change is overdue. The main problem lies with the actual criteria for derelicts. The definition of what makes something derelict is shaky and needs an update.

“We don’t have an actual definition of what we call a derelict property. It can range anywhere from just having really bad landscaping, all the way to a hoarder who can’t get into their house anymore because there is so much in there,” said Councillor Demong.

The only real baseline for determining what a derelict is right now is when neighbouring properties have their value lowered because of their neighbour, Demong said.

Cost to the city

The other side of the coin is the cost. Demong said that having bylaw services, AHS, or CPS dealing with derelicts and then the eventual cleanup is substantial.

To deal with the problem the gaps in the system need to be identified so proper action can be taken. As it stands, not much can be done about the derelicts because of a lack of classification.

“Right now, all we can do, for example, if there is a mice problem that is plaguing neighbours, we can send some bylaw officers to give reparations or give some fines. Because it’s the homeowner’s property, there’s very little we can do,” Demong said.

Demong also said that homeowners can apply to have their property taxes lowered because of a neighbouring derelict. Money is being lost because of the cost of remediating the derelicts as well as fewer taxes from neighbouring properties.

Seeking to gain back losses is the main trigger for this notice of motion.

The City of Calgary and 311 are aware of 270 properties that are currently listed as derelict or are monitored for further deterioration. The Coordinated Safety Response Team or CSRT, responds to 800 calls a year from concerned citizens about property problems.

“Our goal is to support owners to remediate their property. However, if the property continues to receive complaints, becomes unsafe for the public, or it is negatively impacting the community, then remediation orders will be served,” a City of Calgary spokesperson wrote in a prepared statement.

Currently, there are 15 active remediation orders in the city, and 63 properties were remediated in the last two years.

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