Kervin’s Corner: Derelict buildings are ruining Port Hardy’s image

It's negatively affecting homeowners, local business owners, and the overall impression of our town.

Derelict apartment buildings are ruining our town’s image.

During local elections, many a councillor had admitted it was, in fact, an issue, but it wasn’t one that they were ready to tackle. Really, what most of the candidates ended up telling residents is that it isn’t really the district’s responsibility.

Isn’t it a district issue if it means it’s a continual obstacle to economic development? Potential investors may not look too kindly on our town if we have rundown, ugly buildings sitting there, rotting away for all to see.

After a bit of investigation, one apartment building – after a major fire occurred in the top right-hand corner of the complex – has just sat there without so much a peep on what’s going to happen next on it.

A restoration company was sent to ensure the building was safe, but the company is unwilling – or perhaps legally unable to – speak on what’s going to happen next. And yet, it sits there unused.

It’s an eyesore and it isn’t helping anyone. The previous mayor Hank Bood bragged that we as a town have a 1 per cent vacancy rate, yet I’d think that this means that there are probably a lot of people without homes. That apartment building, if someone just did something about it, would house at least up to 70 locals.

Those councillors say that they cannot do anything about these kinds of buildings, but why else do we have a building inspector? He or she can simply walk over there, do a quick property and risk assessment, and “ta-da” the district might have some recourse now. The district then may choose to impose some fines or increase the taxes on that said building, if the property owner chooses to let the apartment building sit in its derelict condition.

Let’s be clear, too. Derelict properties seriously impact surrounding properties and the community as a whole. It’s time the district, alongside mayor and council’s backing, take remedial action against lazy property owners. And if the community charter doesn’t allow for it? Why not expand those sections that limit their scope in taking action against property owners. For example, mayor and council could amend Port Hardy’s Community Charter to give the municipality remedial tools that would encourage derelict property owners to take some positive action. In other words, we need to change our local laws so the district can actually do something about this issue.

As it stands, according to BC Chambers, many local community charters only allow municipalities to give tax exemptions to property owners. Under section 266(2) of Community Charter within BC’s laws, “a council may, for the purpose of encouraging revitalization in the municipality, provide tax exemptions for land or improvements.”

Section 266 does, in a way, limit the district’s ability to directly address derelict buildings, so let’s have mayor and council change it for our town.

This also goes for First Nations communities – there’s always proactive ways to address housing issues, both on- and off-reserve in terms of derelict buildings.

It’s negatively affecting homeowners, local business owners, and the overall impression of our town.

It’s time we do something about it.

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