Mobilizing Development of Vacant Lots

What would it take to mobilize or activate real estate sales or development in the Boyle Street/McCauley area?

It came to my attention at a community meeting recently, that many vacant lots in an area actually depresses the property values of the whole area. I had not considered it before. This does not concern me presently as I am not considering selling, and low property values means lower taxes.

In the area surrounding where I live there are six vacant properties. Then earlier this year as I was looking out my condo balcony, I noticed someone clearing away the snow on the sidewalk of a vacant property. As I watched, it occurred to me that every landowner is responsible to keep the sidewalks cleared regardless of the condition of the lot. So, I started to pay closer attention to the sidewalks of vacant lots. Many of them were not cleared of snow. Also, there are people using motorized scooters in this area that need the sidewalks cleared of snow.

The situation, as I see it, is that people are waiting for a “boom” of real estate prices before they sell. I saw someone from the construction industry say on the news that things will not return to what they once were. The economy has flattened and it looks like it won’t budge upward in the near future. So, it looks like we get to continue walking and driving by vacant lots in our area – unless people begin to sell, but what could encourage them to do so?

Often it is only when the cheque book is affected that people begin to stir. So, I have decided to report to 311 issues concerning vacant lots, particularly unshoveled sidewalks. Perhaps when property owners are forced to be responsible and have to pay to maintain their lot (whether being fined by the City and/or hiring someone to shovel), like the rest of us, they might feel it is time to give it up and move on.

If the whole community does this I wonder if it would make a difference? Would it send a message to property owners of vacant lots that the community is becoming proactive? What if one or two decide to sell or develop instead of paying for maintenance (in the summer it will be mowing the lawn)? It might create a spark that could ignite the area. Maybe I am naïvely optimistic, but then again, I never thought I would see in my lifetime that smoking in public places would become illegal. It only takes one to start a movement. One thing I know for sure: if I do nothing, nothing changes.

Sharon Pasula is an Indigenous spiritual and cultural resource person who lives in Boyle Street.

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Janis Irwin MLA

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