Anyone who knows me well has probably seen this photo…
It’s a former derelict property here in Jasper Place, there are many like it out there, but this one was mine to try deal with. As a new Community League Civics Director in 2009, this was first issue I took on, and the first presentation I ever made a city hall. Gutted by fire it sat, for well over a year (despite repeated complaints from it’s neighbors), just as you see it, empty, derelict, an eyesore and a dumping ground/outpost (across the street from an elementary school) for whoever wanted easy access to the backyard. Up until the time the house changed hands and the site was redeveloped as a duplex, any clean-up was more or less relegated to someone waving a weed-whip around the front fence.
If we want to revitalize mature communities, cultivate a demand for housing and infill development, and move the spread of population growth towards Edmonton’s urban core and less into unsustainable sprawl; then lets start by living, eating, and breathing livability.
As residents of older communities, not only do we get the possibility of having to look at one of these everyday, and live with the nuisances and disorder it can create in our neck of the urban woods, we get to pay for the related costs on the city and the province. It’s our increasing tax bill that has to cover the efforts of the Edmonton Police Service in dealing with the disorder and activity properties like this can attract (taking officers on the street away from other duties), the time and expenses incured by bylaw officers and other staff employed to deal with derelict housing, as well as those of provincial public health officers should they have to address a health hazard such as garbage piling up. Meanwhile the root of the problem is more than likely seeing it’s property taxes reduced.
The opportunity for new forms of community standards and safety enforcement is two-fold. First, to recoup some of the costs involved, from the property owner and not their unfortunate neighbors, secondly, to light a fire under the owner with a tax bill large enough to motivate one to reclaim and redevelop their property rather than sitting back while the community suffers. A derelict tax levy would have the potential to do both. It’s a suggestion I’ve made recently to the Mature Neighborhood Sustainability working group of the Community Sustability Task Force, and I hope to see it in the task-force’s final recommendations later this year.
Other options suggested to the working group: Winnipeg’s derelict building bylaw, and additionally, providing a tax credit to the neighbors on either side of a derelict property.