Resident Nadine Rigsby no longer feels safe in her Haliburton Street neighbourhood thanks to violence, public intoxication and “hoarder-style” piles of garbage from nearby rental houses.
“It’s like the yellow line on the road is the train tracks and the other side of the street is a mess,” she said. “It’s really out of control so I am happy the city has claimed [the houses] a nuisance.”
Nanaimo city council slapped three rental homes with nuisance titles Monday after excessive police calls and reports of suspected drug trafficking, noise and fighting, despite the appeal of one landlord to hold off on the designation.
According to the Nanaimo RCMP, the properties on 25 and 33 Haliburton and 61 View streets have seen about 60 complaints in total this year, and little to no action taken to improve the situation.
Haliburton residents described disturbances like drunken yelling, violence and potential fire hazards from the properties. Resident Philip Clark told the News Bulletin he purchased his home four years ago when he thought the area was on an upturn, but in the last two years has seen it take a dramatic slide back the other way. He hopes the new designation is the start of action to resolve the situation.
“Proof will be in the pudding I guess,” he said.
Mai Nguyen, landlady of the two properties on Haliburton, and her advocate Tia Fawdry don’t agree with all the claims made by neighbours, but acknowledged there is a transient population, including people with addictions, and high traffic to go with those lifestyles. They had called for council to give them 60 days to come up with a safety plan and connect residents with integrated services, but Coun. Ted Greves said there’s no way he’d grant the delay after what he saw and heard and Mayor John Ruttan, said it’s “extremely wrong” for taxpayers to pay for ongoing costs. Under the designation, the property owners are billed for nuisance call-outs from police and bylaw officers.
“We try really much to get that waived because I don’t think that’s right. They have to give me a chance…” Nguyen said. “They just told me and we fixed it up and you know, we try to help the people on the street also. They have no home.”
Fawdry said she and Nguyen need to be proactive. On Tuesday they placed a lock on the back door of one of the homes to keep out unwanted guests.
“We don’t want it to be a nuisance,” she said. “It’s a nuisance for us too.”
The City of Nanaimo designates a property as a nuisance as a last resort after police and city staff members have identified issues to property owners and given them time to address them. Randy Churchill, the city’s manager of bylaw services, says the municipality will go through an awful lot to help the owners as long as they are making an effort. Improvements, for example, can require better screening of tenants and looking at references.
“We want them to succeed and they do…” he said. “We don’t have any that don’t get to a successful conclusion, some just take longer and some necessitate we go to council to put in a costing element.”