$0 budget for Vacant Building Enforcement

Kacie Cooper
By Kacie Cooper February 9, 2018 13:26

Downtown Windsor (Photo by Kacie Cooper)

By Kacie Cooper

In the City of Windsor’s budget for 2018, zero dollars have been allotted to combat the increasing number of vacant buildings in the area.

City officials estimate the number of vacant buildings in Windsor to be around 750, some of which are deteriorating and condemned. Buildings in that condition can attract a criminal element.

Stacey Robert, who teaches criminology among other psychology classes at St. Clair College, said vacant buildings are an issue for Windsor. She said when vacant buildings become abandoned, especially homes, deviant groups are likely to move into these areas and as a result the crime rate will go up.

“Even with commercial vacancies, if those businesses aren’t re-established it gives the impression that the area is run down. That simple impression of the area being run down suggests to people that it’s not monitored and that’s when criminal activity usually moves in,” said Robert.

Robert said once an area falls into disrepair or has too many vacancies it is very hard for those areas to make a come back unless there is funding and support from local government. Despite this, Robert said she believes Windsor will continue to grow.

“There is obviously work that needs to be done, but I actually believe we will see improvement in the city,” said Robert.

John Revell, chief building official for the City of Windsor, has worked for the city since 2010 and said he believes there has been a decrease in the number of vacant buildings.

Revell said the city has been taking steps to restore buildings that are vacant and have fallen into disrepair. The city’s finance and tax department has started a tax relief incentive program for businesses in the downtown core. This allows them to receive a tax break on vacant buildings and is to be used to renovate and improve the building.

“The other side of it is enforcement and taking a proactive stance,” said Revell. “The Property Standards by-law states the minimum standards that a building must be maintained in and the city can issue an order to have the building repaired.”

The city is also currently recruiting building by-law officers for a new vacant building enforcement initiative which will be starting in May of this year.

“It’s hard to really understand exactly how many vacant buildings we actually have. This new initiative to deal with the vacant buildings should provide us with a little bit more of an understanding of what those numbers really are,” said Dan Lunardi, the manager of inspections in the building department for the City of Windsor.

With this new enforcement initiative, when the city’s building by-law officers come across vacant buildings with problems, an order can be issued against the property owner. Administrative fees will cover the inspectors’ time to do the review of the building as well as other costs.

Revell said the new initiative will be self-funded, which is why Windsor’s 2018 budget set aside no money for the vacant building enforcement program.

Revell said he believes with the new programs in place, the city will start to turn a corner and the number of vacant buildings in Windsor will fall.

Revell said the city has just waited for complaints about the issues with vacant buildings in the past, and this proactive enforcement is something he believes will be more successful and benefit Windsor long term.

Kacie Cooper
By Kacie Cooper February 9, 2018 13:26

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