By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
As part of a new pilot project, three apartment buildings in priority neighbourhoods have become the centre of what could become a larger effort to implement proactive measures to keep buildings clean in the City of Oshawa.
Getting underway on Oct. 30, this city task force will include members from both the Municipal Law Enforcement and Licensing Services (MLELS) department and Oshawa Fire Services who will be visiting the apartments to inspect for issues related to municipal standards and fire code violations.
The three buildings chosen for the project are 275 Wentworth Street East, 155 King Street East, and 222 Nonquon Road. Each of these buildings sits in a priority area identified under the Region of Durham’s Healthy Neighbourhoods Mapping System as having serious deficiencies related to health and wellness of the individuals living there.
“I am glad city staff are implementing the pilot project,” says Councillor Amy McQuaid-England. “I hope that council will take the next steps to bring proactive enforcement and landlord licensing across our entire city. There are more tenants out there that need to be protected. Our residents deserve to live in safe and healthy housing regardless of income or neighbourhood.”
As part of the visits to these buildings, the team will be conducting safety and standards inspections of common areas, hallways, laundry rooms and parking areas. Fire alarms will also be tested and exits will be reviewed to make sure they are clear and unimpeded.
In a release from the City of Oshawa, they advise that residents who reside in any of these three buildings can also choose to have their unit inspected. The city says this is being done on a first come, first served basis and asked tenants to register for an inspection by calling Service Oshawa at 905-436-3311 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“This pilot project is the first step in rectifying the rampant neglect of our city’s most vulnerable,” says Christeen Thornton, a local representative with ACORN Canada, a tenant rights organization. “We are excited to work with the city to address the complaints of our fellow constituents. With our concentrated effort we will hopefully see a vast improvement in the quality of life here in Oshawa.”
The proactive inspection is the byproduct of a council decision prior to its summer recess. Also as part of that motion, staff will be planning for a full-fledged expansion of the MLELS inspection program in the 2018 budget, as well as creating a “Tenant Awareness Week” in November of this year, now set to run from Nov. 27 to Dec. 1. The motion also plans for a second release of the city’s tenant brochure and for city staff to work with the Region of Durham to conduct engagement sessions in priority neighbourhoods.
Previously, the call to expand the Residential Rental Housing Licensing System (RRHL) was shut down due to the fact that the city’s ability to address all current issues would be “critically limited” if the RRHL system were to be expanded at the present time. Also, the approximately $200,000 it would cost to bring in a consultant to assist with the expansion was not budgeted for.
The creation of the task force follows concerns raised by residents and representatives of ACORN in April. At that time, the Corporate Services committee had staff look into the possibility of expanding the city’s RRHL, which currently exists in the area surrounding UOIT and Durham College in Oshawa’s north end.
The system, while requiring all landlords to be registered with the city, also includes annual inspections by city staff and fire services for property standards and other municipal bylaw and fire code violations. ACORN representatives claim that the RRHL system, if expanded to other areas of the city, will help to address the neglect in many apartments and rental accommodations.