Saint John city hall expects to double the number of hazardous buildings it takes down each year now that it has new powers under the New Brunswick Municipalities Act.
The new legislation gives the city the right to force the owners of derelict vacant buildings to fix them up or to demolish them. There are dozens of vacant apartment houses throughout Saint John's old north-end.
"We run about 100 buildings on average that we are monitoring," Amy Poffenroth, who heads the city's buildings and inspection services department, said Thursday.
"Saint John can now order the demolition of a vacant building if the owner doesn't comply with an order to fix it up — even if it is securely boarded up," she said.
Poffenroth said that along with the new power, her department also has more resources and hopes to double the number of buildings it knocks down from eight to as many as 20.
Gerry Webster, a director with the New Brunswick Apartment Owners Association, wonders if the city is on the right track.
"All it's going to do is tear down a bunch more buildings," he said, suggesting that lowering taxes and water and sewerage rates would make it profitable for landlords to fix their buildings.
He said the province should get out of public housing.
"The competition here is not other landlords, it's government again. It's N.B. Housing," Webster said.
The New Brunswick Housing Authority's 800 public housing units in Saint John keep rents in the city down, Webster argued, which in turn creates more vacant buildings because it's simply not worth it for landlords to fix them up.
"Somehow, the three levels of government have to get together and say, 'Hey, you know something, we have to get out of residential housing altogether. Let the market take care of it,'" Webster said.
"If people need help to be in the buildings, then help the people — don't be subsidizing entire buildings. That just doesn't make sense."