Port Coquitlam mayor says B.C. Housing should be ’embarrassed’ after council orders demolition on property owned by agency

A photo taken of 2365 Kelly Ave. on Jan. 19, 2023. The City of Port Coquitlam cited described the property as a nuisance and a hazard posing danger to public health and safety. image supplied

Port Coquitlam council had sharp words for B.C. Housing on Tuesday, after they unanimously voted for the demolition of a dilapidated house sitting on a property owned by the provincial agency.

The vacant building located at 2365 Kelly Ave. has been a frequent problem for RCMP, municipal fire rescue, and bylaw services.

Mayor Brad West said it was an important message to send, calling the situation: “embarrassing on many levels.”

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“The provincial government and B.C. housing should be embarrassed that it takes council to consider a remedial action order to get results,” West said. “Just because you’re a government agency, doesn’t mean that you get a free pass.”

The city’s bylaw department has logged 13 complaints since 2016 related to squatters, illegal dumping, garbage, and the “unsightly appearance” of the house left in disrepair.

BC Housing took ownership of the property from New View Housing in June, 2021, and has plans to use the site for an affordable housing development.

Staff noted no complaints have been recorded since BC Housing took charge of the property, but said this is due to increased monitoring and bylaw enforcement by the city.

There are still ongoing violations to the city’s property standards bylaw, according to staff.

The ownership change should not change the city’s position, as the problems have not been fixed, said Coun. Darrell Penner.

“I don’t care who owns the property. I can say that I wish we had done this sooner,” Penner said. “They should be aware of what they’ve stepped into.”

BC Housing has been ordered to demolish the building within 30 days. The city cited hazardous conditions, and described the property as a nuisance and a hazard posing danger to public health and safety.

The owner may request reconsideration within 14 days.

West said remedial action orders are rare, having only seen the city consider them around five times during his 15 years on council.

“The fact that in this case, the property owner happens to be a provincial agency, is all the more damning,” West said.

If B.C. Housing fails to adhere to the order, the city will destroy it and send an invoice; if the invoice is not paid, the city will recoup the costs through future taxation.

Staff said they frequently tried to engage with B.C. Housing on the issue as well as the remedial action order but the agency failed to produce an action plan for the property.

“Despite acknowledging the correspondence, there was no willingness to work together,” staff said. “Prior to bringing the report forward, staff attempted on multiple occasions to get the owner to provide an updated action plan on the property.”

The city has been forced to clean up the property in the past, and levelling the building will improve the appearance of the neighbourhood, and reduce costs and risk to the public, according to staff.

Coun. Nancy McCurrah noted the house sits right against the side of an adjacent apartment building, which she believes to be a fire hazard.

She added the building is covered in graffiti, and the vandalism has spread to the apartment.

The city’s bylaw department has been recording calls for service at the vacant house since 2016. image supplied.

Port Coquitlam’s housing committee chair, Coun. Glenn Pollock, had a more tactful response, suggesting he suspects the lack of engagement from B.C. Housing is due to recent administrative changes.

In July, 2022, the B.C. NDP government fired the entire board of the housing agency after an independent probe found inadequate oversight over decisions, spending, and responsibility regarding risk management.

While supportive of the remedial action, Pollock said he had concerns regarding future conversations with the new executive director and board.

“I just hope this remedial action will create a dialogue,” Pollock said.

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