Housing complex under city bylaw scrutiny

Police tape surrounds a residence in King Arthur’s Court on Fifth Street Monday.  - CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin
Police tape surrounds a residence in King Arthur’s Court on Fifth Street Monday.
— image credit: CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

The townhouse complex that was the scene of Nanaimo’s first murder of 2013 is on the city’s radar as a nuisance property.

King Arthur’s Court is at the corner of Fifth Street and Georgia Avenue in Harewood, where a man died of a stab wound Sunday. Gabriel Peter Stinson, 40, was charged with second degree murder Monday.

King Arthur’s Court has been under scrutiny by the city for several years and was designated as a nuisance property in October 2010.

“What it was was excessive police calls to the tenancy,” said Randy Churchill, manager of bylaws services.

From January to October 2010, there had been 124 recorded instances of police attending calls for a gamut of complaints that included noise, violence and drug trafficking.

That nuisance designation resulted in inspections by Nanaimo Fire Rescue, the RCMP, city building and bylaws inspectors who noted a number of deficiencies in the 37-unit complex.

“A series of deficiencies that were found were dealt with,” Churchill said.

Churchill describes the housing complex’s owners as reasonable to deal with.

“But it’s not the high-end product that they’re looking for there,” Churchill said.

Churchill and RCMP Cpl. Dave LaBerge, of the Nanaimo RCMP Bike Patrol Unit, said that many of the problems leading to the nuisance designation stemmed from poor on-site management and that once new management was brought in and safety deficiencies in the complex were addressed the complex started functioning somewhat better.

Churchill said most calls recently are over garbage and bylaws issues.

Low-rent housing does not necessarily equate to violence, although a woman was stabbed at King Arthur’s Court in November – she survived her wounds and was released from hospital the day after the incident.

“We’re seeing about one call per month coming in that are of a nuisance nature and the rest are calls for service that you get when you have a place where people live in multiple units,” he said.

LaBerge said the police and the city are reluctant to designate low-income housing as nuisance property because of the risk of having a housing complex shut down and losing that inventory of low-cost accommodation.

“We always encouraged their management to properly screen their prospective tenants and furthermore to communicate with the residents they have there to address nuisance and public safety issues on a timely basis,” LaBerge said.

“So have we seen a reduction in calls for service? Well, yes, we have, but obviously not to a level of consistency where we thought it  was appropriate to remove the nuisance designation like we have in some of the other facilities.”

“It’s not an opulent facility, but it’s functioning,” Churchill said.

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