Keeping Up the Fight
I wrote an article back in November about a number of residents dealing with problem properties. I endeavoured to capture the sentiment of those who were on the frontline and had taken the initiative to speak to the City’s Urban Planning Committee.
Since then, the City appears to have taken this seriously. Through a motion from Ward 6 Councillor McKeen, City Administration staff has begun looking closely and intently at actually dealing with the issue. Now, for the record, a large part this has come from the community not only in McCauley, but Alberta Avenue and Parkdale Cromdale. Problem properties, while not exclusive to McCauley, are a problem across the city to varying degrees. The classification of what constitutes a problem property is varied, as are the impacts on residents and business. But for the case of our focus I was concerned about the safety, happiness, and general well-being of the community.
The existence of many problem properties has stemmed from the lack of housing options and barriers for some to enter into safe and affordable housing. This is a failure by government (municipal, provincial, and federal) to support and develop housing options and ensure people have access regardless of their circumstances. I heard through conversations that, in some cases, Bylaw Enforcement and others related to the Residential Living Governance Committee (RLGC) were reluctant to issue closure orders against a property because those involved didn’t want to put people on the street. They, in effect, would rather leave them in a roach-infested building with no functioning plumbing at the mercy of whatever evils than see them on the street.
But know this: there is strength in numbers and we are legion.
I call BS. We’re supposed to look back to the City and say, “Your failure to provide adequate and safe supportive housing means people have to die?” Unacceptable.
The City is developing housing strategies; we’re waiting for the City’s Housing and Homelessness group to make some announcements. Edmonton’s Community Development Corporation (ECDC) has made an effort to get involved, and we applaud them. Now is the time to walk the talk. I’ve expressed confidence in the City’s administration to actually act on promises is low. This is a chance to get it right and set an example for the rest of Canada, and perhaps North America, of what can be done when you think outside the box. I have been told that for the first time perhaps the City will “aggressively” attack this issue.
So, now we wait and see. As the snow melts and the Province has put all their money into rebuilding the Herb Jamieson, can the City actually move the needle? – pun intended. As always, I remain cautiously optimistic. But know this: there is strength in numbers and we are legion. Reach out, talk to your neighbours, email or write council, your MLA, and your elected officials. Tell them we’re watching and taking note.
Greg is the President of the McCauley Community League. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.