It appeared promising, but in the end Sandy Hill has little to celebrate.
Last fall, having engaged with stakeholders including Action Sandy Hill, and having conducted an extensive study of rental accommodation issues across town, Maclaren Municipal Consulting, hired by the City, released an encouraging set of recommendations.
They endorsed taking a big step in the direction of a landlord licensing pilot program, something ASH believes could be a comprehensive and proactive approach to improve quality of life for students and residents in our neighbourhood. Property standards, building code conformity, and interior and exterior health and safety standards could have been the purview of such a program, ASH suggested. The pilot study, the consultants recommended, should be undertaken in Sandy Hill and two other neighbourhoods with issues relating to rental housing.
In early November, City staff released their report. There will be no licensing pilot program.
There are, however, two recommendations acknowledging the many calls to 311 Sandy Hill residents have made when bylaws are breached, in particular the exterior property standards bylaws.
The crumbs: City staff will be
• hiring some additional staff to respond to 311 complaints relating to negligent landlords, and
• levying an additional fine of $500 when bylaw officers have to inspect a property more than once—but only for infractions relating to the exterior of properties.
This falls far short of the comprehensive approach of a licensing system ASH was hoping for.
Residents are left, still, with only one thing to do to report issues: call 311. Beyond garbage problems, don’t hesitate to call in any building code issues you see, such as blocked back stairs, or too-small exit routes (especially out of basement bedroom windows), as fears remain that without proactive inspections, conditions in some students’ homes will remain unsafe.
Thanks to those residents who attended one or more of the fall consultations on the study, and relayed their views on the garbage, fire, health, safety, and building code problems we witness in Sandy Hill.
Action Sandy Hill also sent in two detailed submissions, which can be seen at the ASH website www.ash-acs.ca (search Rental Accommodation), and met twice with City staff.
To no avail.
Susan Young is President of Action Sandy Hill.