Community advocate calling for improved bylaw enforcement at Winnipeg's vacant, unsecured homes

A community advocate has compiled a list of more than 120 unsecured, vacant buildings in Winnipeg to spur the city into improving bylaw enforcement.

Sel Burrows and a group of volunteers put together the list of properties, consisting mainly of houses and apartments blocks, which aren't properly secured and are a danger to the community.

The group said at least 30 appear to have been broken into and may have people unlawfully living inside.

Burrows believes these buildings are in addition to the 560 already registered under the city's vacant building bylaw, adding many have been vacant for months, even years.

Now, Burrows is calling on the city to clear the backlog of unregistered and unsecured vacant buildings and to improve bylaw enforcement and inspections.

“The inner city really depends on the bylaw enforcement department to maintain the city in good condition. If they’re getting behind, then they need help,” Burrows told CTV News.

He said city employees who are currently on light duty, like police or firefighters, could be brought in to help deal with the backlog.

He added that vacant buildings contribute to fires, crime. urban decay, and pose a threat to resident safety.

“This is something that, within a month or two, this all could be cleaned up because it’s not the city’s job to do the boarding up. It’s the city’s job to tell the landlords they have to live up to the bylaw, and it’s as simple as that,” he said.

“If they don’t do it, the city orders a contractor in and puts that cost onto the landlord’s property tax and they have to pay their property tax because if they don’t, they lose their house. It's a fairly simple solution to this issue."

Burrows is also calling on the city to prioritize vacant buildings near schools and social agencies.

A City of Winnipeg spokesperson tells CTV News there is typically an increase in complaints about vacant buildings as the weather gets warmer, adding the city does take action when those properties aren't in compliance with bylaws.

The city said the public is encouraged to contact 311 to report bylaw violations.