A pair of reports that will be reviewed by the Standing Policy Committee on Property & Development next week outline significant steps to address the growing problem of vacant and derelict buildings within Winnipeg.
These reports detail the negative impact of neglected vacant buildings on community safety, neighbourhood aesthetics, and the city's enforcement resources. They also outline the City's commitment to a new set of strategies to ensure these properties are better managed.
"In the spirit of making Winnipeg a safer, more vibrant city, we're announcing this renewed focus on addressing the challenges posed by vacant buildings," said Mayor Scott Gillingham. "Our strategies are targeted and multifaceted, designed to promote active maintenance, security, and eventual occupancy."
Among the key initiatives:
- Enhanced Boarding and Security Standards: The reports propose stricter security and safety requirements for problematic vacant buildings. This includes the use of higher-grade boarding materials and methodologies, installation of security fences and cameras, motion sensor lighting, and improved building security patrols. The storage of vehicles and combustible materials on a vacant property would be prohibited.
- Increased Inspection and Enforcement Activities: The City would apply Non-Compliant Inspection Fees to incentivize owners to comply with the orders, especially with those related to securing a vacant building. The enforcement of these regulations will be enhanced with the addition of four By-law Enforcement Officer positions.
- Community Outreach and Engagement: City By-law Enforcement Officers will work closely with local communities to identify problematic and unknown vacant buildings. Education and awareness programs will also be initiated to inform the public about vacant building issues and enforcement processes.
- Access to Information: A list of non-compliant and problematic vacant buildings will be made available on the City's Open Data Portal, encouraging community monitoring and engagement.
- Streamlining the Residential Demolition Permit Process: Recommended amendments to the Development Procedures By-law will simplify and expedite the process for permits submitted without accompanying building permits. Under the new process, the approval will be delegated to the Director of Planning, Property and Development, with consultation with the Ward Councillor. This will allow for a more rapid response to problematic buildings and support the ongoing efforts to manage and mitigate vacant building issues within the city.
"Updating our policies and procedures is a vital part of keeping our city safe and attractive," said Councillor Sherri Rollins, Chair of Property & Development. "Streamlining the demolition permit process for derelict residential buildings is a necessary step that will expedite improvements to our urban landscape, prevent prolonged vacancies, and contribute to the quality of life in our communities."
Compared to other municipalities, the City of Winnipeg stands out as one of the only major cities with a dedicated bylaw and enforcement unit specifically addressing vacant building issues.
"We're taking a leadership role in dealing with the vacant building challenge," said Councillor John Orlikow, Chair of Community Services. "Through active enforcement, community involvement, and greater transparency, we're confident we can make a real difference in the quality of our neighbourhoods."
The full reports, with detailed statistical data and strategic recommendations, can be found on the City of Winnipeg's Decision Making Information System. They will be considered at the June 1 meeting of the Standing Policy Committee on Property & Development.