Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Strategy targets boarded-up buildings


Boarded-up buildings will become a higher priority for the Saskatoon Fire Department under a plan endorsed by a city council committee Tuesday.

The strategy comes as the Pleasant Hill Community Associatio­n suggests the problem of boarded-up properties has become worse since it was raised last summer after three homicides in a week in the neighbourh­ood.

Katelyn Siggelkow, speaking on behalf of the community associatio­n, told council’s planning, developmen­t and community services committee that a count of boarded-up properties and vacant lots on Sunday showed an increase to 66 from 52 in June.

On the 200 block of Avenue V South, 16 of 25 properties were boarded up on Sunday, Siggelkow said.

“This issue has become worse,” Siggelkow said. “We continue to be in a state of crisis. Our community deserves safe homes to live in.”

The fire department does not currently track boarded-up properties, assistant chief Wayne Rodger told the committee. The department is recommendi­ng reclassify­ing boarded-up properties with a Priority 1 designatio­n.

Under this change, if it is approved by city council, the fire department would inspect boarded-up properties and issue orders to fix the problem. In some cases, this would result in the demolition of a property.

Winnipeg and Hamilton, Ont., are the only cities identified that have implemente­d a system to regulate vacant and boarded buildings, a city report says. The fire department does not recommend this approach.

“My sense is (properties are) boarded for a reason,” Rodger said. The report outlines a number of possible reasons for boarded properties, like security, renovation­s or fire damage.

The fire department has closed and secured 37 properties in the last five years for safety reasons, the report says.

Diane Bentley, speaking for the Caswell Hill Community Associatio­n, wondered about the possibilit­y of limiting the amount of time a property can stay boarded.

Bentley pointed to the lengthy attempt to address a boarded-up house with asbestos warnings in the Mayfair neighbourh­ood. Community associatio­ns also have limited resources and rely on volunteers, she added.

Caswell Hill has about 16 boarded properties, the report says.

“(Residents’) sense of well-being is diminished,” Bentley said of boarded properties. “They become a blight and a safety risk.”

David Fineday, who lives in the Riversdale neighbourh­ood, suggested involving more First Nations people in the effort to address rundown properties.

“I think there should be a thing against boarded-up houses,” Fineday said.

The committee heard more data on the issue will be presented later this year.

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