Fire inspections lead to fines for two affordable housing complexes in Red Deer, Alta.
The operator of two affordable housing complexes in Red Deer faces fines for multiple safety code violations.
Last year, Red Deer Emergency Services (RDES) conducted fire inspections at two properties, the Stan Schalk Apartments and the Buffalo Apartments, which resulted in Safety Codes Act charges to the owner of both properties, Potter’s Hands Development Ltd.
“We have been working closely with the property owner for some time, but unfortunately reached a point where charges were necessary to outline the gravity of the situation,” said Fire Marshal Tim Kivell.
“Our priority is ensuring the safety of residents living in these facilities.”
The first inspection, which took place on Sept. 10, 2020 at Stan Schalk Apartments, resulted in four charges: two charges of failing to inspect, test and maintain smoke alarms in the dwelling units, one charge for a partially blocked exit, and one charge of failing to maintain fire separations.
The second inspection, at the Buffalo Apartments, took place on Nov. 3, 2020 and resulted in two additional charges: one charge for failure to maintain door release hardware on an exit door, and one charge for improper storage of combustible materials.
“We found two suites where they didn’t have smoke alarms,” Kivell said.
Potter’s Hands Development Property Manager Jody Bolwijn claimed that the tenants took out the smoke alarms without management knowing.
“A lot of these smoke detectors are very sensitive,” Bolwijn said.
“They’re toasting toast, and it’s going off, and they get frustrated after dealing with that a few times that they take it down themselves.”
Kivell said management did not have the adequate paperwork to prove that the smoke alarms were tested and maintained prior to occupancy.
“We do know that tenants tamper with smoke alarms, and that’s why we would have to ask the owner for the records, so that we can prove that they did their due diligence.”
The owner pled guilty to the charges in Red Deer Provincial Court on June 30, 2021, which resulted in $19,500 in fines being laid. He shut down the Stan Schalk Apartments four months ago due to ongoing maintenance costs. The Buffalo Apartments will close at the end of August. Both buildings were affordable housing complexes that Bolwijn said housed those struggling with addiction with no place left to go.
“We gave those people chances that other people wouldn’t even think twice of giving a chance too,” he said.
“I'm going to miss this building. We've helped many people throughout the years I've been here. It's sad to see it go the way it went.”
According to the city’s website, approximately 400 individuals and families are on the waitlist for affordable housing, and there is a shortage of one bedroom units for single adults as well as units large enough for families in the community.
“Affordable housing is always a difficult proposition in a smaller city because there need to be a willingness to provide housing below market value for individuals, and sometimes that’s a hard thing to do,” said Red Deer’s Community Development Superintendent Bobby-Jo Stannard.
Stannard said money, and willing developers, are needed to build more affordable housing in Red Deer.
“We are certainly working to try to engage as many developers as possible,” Stannard said.
“We know that there is a long game here to improve our affordable housing situation, so we’re continuing to work on that.”