‘Problem properties’ plague Alberta Avenue, residents fed up

Dilapidated houses on Alberta Avenue are being boarded up to prevent safety issues, Saturday, July 29, 2023. Global News

People who live near Alberta Avenue are calling on the city to help with run-down houses and vacant lots that they say are stalling revitalization efforts.

Valda Roberts has lived near Alberta Avenue for almost 30 years and in that time, she has seen the neighbourhood change drastically. She is one of the residents fighting to make it as vibrant as possible.

“We are a resilient community and we are working to change that narrative,” she said.

Roberts lives next to one of the properties and says there have been several arson attempts.

“The last arson attempt was a successful arson — it burned half the building,” she said, adding a 30-foot wall fell into her yard in the middle of the night as a result.

“I still have a bent fence. I still have a property that’s half burnt beside me, which does nothing for real estate values, which does nothing for the morale of the neighbourhood.”

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The “problem properties,” as they are known, have been an issue for years. The derelict houses can attract squatters and pose a security and fire risk, according to the Alberta Avenue Business Association.

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“They have lasted here many years and the city hasn’t really done much until very recently to address the most challenging properties,” said Erick Estrada, the association’s executive director.

The business association believes there are more problem properties in this neighbourhood than in other parts of the city because of the neighbourhood. The association speculates the houses are owned by landlords looking to take advantage of rising lot prices in the area.

Coun. Ashley Salvador says getting rid of the problem properties is a major goal for the area. She says the city has created a dedicated problem property team and a community property safety team, which allows fire crews to proactively enter the problem homes.

“Going in, and at the owner’s expense, boarding it up, putting a fence up, escalating all the way to requiring 24-hour security on site, which as you can imagine is very costly,” Salvador said.

“So, property owners are no longer just sitting on these derelict sites, they are either redeveloping or selling to someone who will do something with it.”

In 2022, 103 properties were secured by the team and 205 were secured in 2023. Salvador says it’s greatly reduced the number of fires and is prompting dozens of demolitions.

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While the effort is appreciated by those in the community, it’s leading to another challenge: vacant lots where the problem properties once stood.

“It’s just empty. Its potential to have new families moving in, its potential to have other things happening and whenever we have just an empty space, it’s not being utilized and it’s not helping anybody,” Estrada said.

— with files from Mason DePatie, Global News

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