Abandoned buildings top of mind for Regina's bylaw enforcement during funding request

Regina’s 'unsecured' and abandoned buildings were top priority during Tuesday’s Executive Council meeting.

The Bylaw Enforcement Branch of the City of Regina proposed multiple amendments to The Regina Community Standards Bylaw in response to a report from the Board of Police Commissioners.

“We’ll be looking at the model of processes to make sure we’re executing bylaw enforcement to actually affect change in these neighbourhoods,” said Mayor Sandra Masters.

Some of the proposed changes included:

  • Creation of districts for bylaw enforcement and a priority system.
  • Increase of fines for the more extreme property standards violations.
  • Recommendation to allow for more timely responses.
  • And an increase of the contracted services budget.

“We hope to focus more on the issue that exists within certain neighbourhoods and those priorities that exist within certain neighbourhoods to decrease the time it takes to deal with them,” said Andrea McNeil-Wilson, manager of the Regina Bylaw Enforcement Branch.

Another proposed change in the bylaw would allow officers to immediately ‘secure’ unsecured properties within the same day of issuing an order.

This new protocol would be used in neighborhoods with a higher risk of arson, squatting, vandalism and other property related offences.

This change would take away the 15-day period for the property owner to appeal the decision after an order is issued.

Carmichael Outreach CEO Bettyann Cox believes securing a building by boarding it up won’t stop those who are seeking shelter from getting inside. She would like to see better collaboration so the issue can be resolved.

“Obviously, nothing can be done immediately,” she said. “It’s taking funding and cooperation and all governments working together. But it needs to be addressed.”

The enforcement agency also outlined that an “up to date inventory” of vacant and boarded up homes in the city be created. This information could then be shared with the Regina Fire and Protective Services (RFPS) and the Regina Police Service (RPS).

Many of the changes surrounded increasing the efficiency of the bylaw enforcement branch, in order to save the resources of Regina’s emergency services.

“We have identified distinct areas, for example there are more unsecured and boarded up structures in core neighborhoods than there are in suburban neighborhoods,” said Andrea McNeil-Wilson, manager of the Regina Bylaw Enforcement Branch.

“We will focus with a core zone with the suburban enforcement that can deal with those issues that are a priority while treating them both equally but still triaging if we are faced in a neighborhood with both an unsecured structure and overgrown grass and vegetation.”

There have been 11 abandoned structures demolished in Regina since the start of the year and according to bylaw enforcement there are another 11 properties scheduled for demolition under the old bylaw standard.

It is estimated that there are around 100 more boarded up homes around the city.

Part of the proposed amendments was an increase of $50,000 to the Bylaw Enforcement Branch’s budget to cover the cost of ‘increased contracted services.’

However, this request was rejected and the amendments were passed unanimously soon after.

The bylaw enforcement branch said it would continue to pursue the request in the next budget cycle.