Derelict buildings and other SUMA considerations

Tyler Clarke
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When a new rental unit’s first tenants look out their balconies they will face a boarded up house that suffered extreme fire damage almost two years ago.

A burnt-out boarded-up building is seen next to a brand new rental-housing unit on Seventh Street East -- a frustrating discrepancy in quality that the city’s elected officials want to resolve. 

The Daily Herald first reported on the uninhabited fire-damaged building in April, 2013, when nearby resident Holly Dmyterko expressed concern that it brought down the quality of the neighbourhood.

Since that time, a 10-unit affordable apartment building for people with acquired brain injuries has gone up next door and the boarded-up building remains standing.

“Here’s some new re-development, reinvigorating the neighbourhood, and right next door to it is a house that burned (almost two years ago) and is still sitting there,” Coun. Lee Atkinson said this week.

“They’re getting ready to open up this new building, and what does that look like next to them?”

Earlier this week, Atkinson brought the issue of derelict buildings to the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) convention in Regina.

His resolution, made on behalf of the city, was for SUMA to look into allowing municipalities greater teeth in enforcing derelict building bylaws.

“In some cases, some of the tools that we have currently don’t appear to be that effective,” Atkinson said, noting that various derelict buildings throughout the city have been boarded up for years.

SUMA CEO Laurent Mougeot is a former neighbour of Atkinson, who Atkinson notes hasn’t lived in the city for about a decade.

“I said, remember that house on 11th Street that was all boarded up?” Atkinson asked Laurent. “Well, it’s still boarded up.”

The derelict buildings resolution proved pretty popular during the annual convention, Atkinson said, noting that the resolution had to be altered in order to meet its wide-reaching demand.

The resolution initially asked for greater ability within the Cities Act for cities to take action against derelict buildings, but smaller communities that operated under the Municipalities Act wanted this same allowance, altering the initial resolution to incorporate them.

Now that the resolution has been approved, SUMA will begin researching the topic and looking at municipalities outside of Saskatchewan to see what works and what doesn’t work, Mayor Greg Dionne said.

As an advocacy body between the province and municipalities, SUMA is expected to bring a recommendation to the provincial government once they settle on a potential solution.


Other SUMA happenings

With eight of the city’s nine elected officials present, Dionne said that much was learned at this year’s conference.

With four or five workshops happening at a time, enough councillors were available to split up the group and attend everything SUMA had to offer, he said.

“They’re out there lobbying the government for changes that will benefit us, and by going to SUMA and going to all these things you find out if there’s new grant money coming, what’s available and what you’re missing,” Dionne said. “It’s just part of the education to me, as a (member of city council).”

A technologically-centred trade show was one of the event’s highlights, Dionne said, adding that fleet software intended to help improve city fleet management struck his fancy.

“It’s a computerized program instead of using the old scribbler and pen,” he said. “Everyone’s moving to better financial reporting and better tracking.”

Premier Brad Wall spoke during the convention, during which he suggested that an education tax increase might help pay for provincial infrastructure needs -- a comment that resulted in significant media response.

“I was actually caught off-guard, because if he would have consulted with the cities, I would have suggested raising the PST by one per cent, and then you would get that extra funding from the visitors and tourists who come to the province,” Dionne said.

The education tax should go towards education, Dionne concluded, adding that by raising PST the province would get money out of everyone who uses the province’s infrastructure.




Organizations: Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association, Daily Herald

Geographic location: Regina, 11th Street, Saskatchewan

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