City targets derelict properties

The City of Winnipeg has vowed to get tough with the owners of vacant and derelict properties.

Owners will be forced to repair their buildings or tear them down

Owners of derelict homes, such as this one, are going to feel the heat from the city to fix up or tear down the dilapidated buildings. ((CBC))
The City of Winnipeg has vowed to get tough with the owners of vacant and derelict properties.

At last count, there were at least 300 beaten down and boarded up houses in Winnipeg's toughest neighbourhoods.

If you put them all in one place, it would be a small subdivision of decay.

The city now says enough is enough and will aggressively go after the owners of those properties.

"We're sick of it — every councillor here is sick of it. The people who live in these neighbourhoods are sick of it," said Coun. Gord Steeves, who chairs the property and development committee.

The figure of 300 properties that fit the derelict designation is likely a conservative one, he added.

There are only a couple of ways those properties even come to the attention of city officials. One way is when owners request a permit to board up a building.

Although they are given two years to fix it or face fines, the city often loses track of the properties, Steeves said.

And many owners don't bother to get a permit. They just board it up and walk away.

The city has tried to track down some owners living as far away as China and Russia and it has tried to seize properties with little success.

The city also relies on area residents to let them know, Steeves said.

In recent years, the city has received several complaints about neglected properties and as a result, city inspectors have been told to stop at nothing when it comes to pursuing the owners, Steeves said.

They will be forced to repair their buildings or tear them down, he said.

However, some people who live alongside such buildings are skeptical the city will do anything.

Roanna Hepburn lives in Point Douglas,  next to a house the city condemned several years ago.

The owner has also been fined but the house, an abandoned eyesore, is still there.

"The property has been vacant for almost seven years," said Hepburn. "Something's very wrong here [and] the city is doing nothing. The city doesn't even have enough inspectors.

"We can't even get hold of the inspector to get him out here."

In the area are four houses in similarly dilapidated condition and Hepburn is frustrated with the image they cast on the area and with having to see them every day.

Heather Geddie, who also lives in Point Douglas, has walked past a home that has been ignored for a decade.

"It's been boarded on and off for as long as I've been here. As I understand, the owner won't sell it, won't fix it."

The owner, James Lazinski, bought it for $3,000, according to city records.

Within a few blocks sit two more vacant houses that he owns and has been fined for neglecting.

Lazinski told CBC News his properties need a lot of work but he doesn't have the money right now.

Although he has promised to fix them soon, the city could force their demolition a lot sooner.