Derelict buildings a growing problem in rural Nova Scotia
Cape Breton Regional Municipality devotes $120K per year to tearing down old buildings
Nova Scotia's rural municipalities are experiencing an unwelcome crop of derelict buildings.
There's no official count of how many abandoned structures each municipality holds. But the costs of monitoring and demolishing them quickly add up.
"Life itself. Things change," said Ron Moore of the County of the Municipality of Cumberland.
"We haven't been able to contact the owners. So the next process, we're waiting for contractor quotes to demolish it," he said in reference to a condemned house in River Philip.
Moore grew up in River Philip, and remembers when the home held a small store that sold bottled pop for eight cents — 10 if you wanted to drink it at home.
Now the ground has collapsed into the cellar at the threshold of the front door.
Moore said enforcement action is based on neighbourhood complaints, but dangerous conditions move a structure to the top of the demolition list.
"Public safety is number one. If you don't like the looks of it, look the other way. But when you come in to a big hole like that, with kids around, it's got to be dealt with," he said.
Moore estimates the cost of tearing down the home and carting away the debris will fall between $10,000 and $12,000.
He said the municipality tore down 13 derelict buildings last year, and 10 so far this year.
Moore said the municipality recoups the costs of demolition by adding it to property taxes.
But if the owners default on their taxes, the cost is borne by taxpayers.
CBRM devotes $120K per year to derelict buildings
The problem is worse in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, which devotes an annual budget of $120,000 to tearing down derelict buildings.
"These are people's homes. A lot of these homes have history, families have been raised over the years, and they're basically left to decline," said Paul Burt with the municipality.
"They become a blight on the neighbourhood. I think the biggest frustration is the number of them."
Burt said he oversees the destruction of 40 to 50 buildings a year, out of an estimated total of more than 1,800 derelict properties.
In River Philip, Moore said abandoned buildings are so common, he doesn't think rural Nova Scotian's notice them any more.
"It's got to lower morale to some point. But again, they're most likely to notice it gone than to notice it when they drive by on their way to work," he said.