Posted February 26, 2021
Bed bugs. Boarded-up buildings. Housing that’s been unsafe for years.
A trio of new proposals aims to tackle those issues and more by tightening city hall rules for vacant and rental buildings and the standards for upkeep.
Suggested bylaw changes follow months of advocacy from London agencies that have raised alarms about people living in unsafe homes, including dilapidated buildings and those with persistent pest and repair problems.
- Revising London’s vacant building bylaw to create a registry of vacant buildings, restrict boarding up a structure to 365 days, and allow city hall to issues fines when the rules are violated.
- Updating London’s property standards bylaw to expand rules for maintenance and repairs, such as including bed bugs as a pest that a landlord must deal with, and allowing city hall to issue fines to landlords and owners who don’t follow the rules.
- Kayabaga said better rules are required to keep people safe in buildings across the city.
“We need to make sure people are meeting the bare minimum of standards.”
And though the proposed bylaw changes will help, Kayabaga said licensing all rental units is also needed. London’s current rental licensing bylaw doesn’t include apartment buildings or townhouses.
“The tenants or the renters motion (from her and Salih) has to remain, the other (bylaw) proposals don’t eliminate the need,” she said. “They all have different purposes.”
ACORN, an advocacy group for low-income people, and LifeSpin, which works with and advocates for Londoners living in poverty, have both urged city hall to improve inspections and enforce the rules for rental units and vacant buildings.
ACORN, in particular, has lobbied city councillors to expand rental licensing to all units.
The issue of substandard housing has come under a harsh spotlight after a November fire at a boarded-up building at King and Lyle streets.
Although city hall had ordered the owner of 689 King St. to repair it and slapped an order to prohibit anyone living at the derelict property, people were staying there. LifeSpin director Jacqueline Thompson had repeatedly warned city officials and politicians about the danger, sending emails every few months since 2019.
But on Nov. 22, one woman was taken to hospital and four others treated for smoke inhalation after a fire broke out at the building. Firefighters also rescued 20 cats.
The updates to the two bylaws would allow fines of $400 to be issued, and doubled for future offences.
City politicians are expected to debate all three proposals on Tuesday, including public meetings. Londoners can register to give feedback to politicians by emailing PPMClerks@london.ca.
Article by Megan Stacey for London Free Press