City creating unified force to deal with 110 problem properties in Edmonton

Edmonton is spearheading an initiative to bring bylaw, police and health officials together to deal with the worst of 110 homes on a problem properties list.

Homes with frequent police, health and bylaw calls are considered 'high risk'

There are 110 properties in Edmonton that are deemed to be significant detriments to their neighbourhood. The city is creating an integrated committee to help get the issues of these properties under control. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

There are 110 homes on a list of problem properties in Edmonton, and city officials are gradually improving the process to get them under control.

A pilot project called the Problem Properties Team was started in 2015 to deal with homes or properties that are considered "detrimental" to the communities they're in. The work of that group is now being taken over by another group, called the Residential Living Governance Committee.

Problem properties, according to Keith Scott, acting director of bylaw services, are ones that have had multiple complaints dealing with a variety of bylaw infractions.  

"It doesn't necessarily mean houses that are boarded up and nobody's in there," said Scott. 

"The problem properties team was created to deal with a large number of properties that had multiple complaints that was more than just a single bylaw issue or something we could deal with."

Homes end up on the list if city bylaw officials aren't able to get compliance on multiple complaints, or if other agencies — such as Alberta Health Services or Edmonton Police Service — are frequently called to the home.

Scott said the team was regularly working with city police, AHS and other support agencies to tackle these properties. Because of that, the city decided to create a more integrated approach by bringing all of the agencies together under one new committee — the Residential Living Governance Committee.

The committee, initially started in 2016, is made up of directors from the various agencies. At weekly meetings called the "situation table," Scott says each agency identifies properties they believe need extra attention based on how often they're dealing with them.

"What the situation table will do is say 'We have our top 10 (properties) here, we need these 10 joint inspections to go out,'" said Scott. Homes prioritized for inspection by the committee are visited once a week.

He calls the joint response a "more holistic" approach.

"If the property had mould inside and a sagging roof, broken windows and it had transients coming and going, then we'd have development compliance for the roof, community standards for the broken windows, AHS for mould and then EPS dealing with the transients who are in the building," said Scott.

For now, only the most troublesome properties on the city's list go to the committee meetings, but Scott says as the Problem Properties Team integrates with the committee, the entire list will end up for consideration.

Problem properties list not public

Although the problem properties list is supposed to monitor homes that pose a risk to neighbourhoods, Scott said the list will not be made public.

"Those are active investigations that officers are dealing with and it would be unfair for us to give that out to the public when we're still working with those homeowners," he said.

He added that homeowners that begin to comply are monitored less frequently until the committee is sure the issues are resolved.

Earlier this month, the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods (SCAN) unit shut down a drug house where a man was killed last August at 11838 54th St.

Scott couldn't say if the home had been identified by the committee, but said SCAN is considered a stakeholder.

"It truly is a combination of as many stakeholders … looking to try to get a resolution and some action taken on homes so they can come into compliance," said Scott.

The committee has just wrapped planning sessions to determine a plan to assess homes. Scott said the committee will take a look at all of the agencies separate lists within the next month.

About the Author

Tanara McLean

Tanara McLean is a producer and journalist at CBC Edmonton. She grew up in Red Deer and has spent her entire career in Alberta, working in print, radio and television.