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Issue #9: Countless aspects can improve housing

I’m not sure how August arrived so quickly, but here we are, halfway through summer. Now is not the time most folks turn their thoughts to winter, but I certainly do. I’m admittedly proactive versus reactive, especially when it pertains to possible upcoming difficult situations. “Winter” is one such “difficult situation” for many people, on many fronts, including housing and food security.

We are all aware of the housing crisis not only in our community, but Canada-wide. A few months ago, I was part of a nation-wide meeting with Federal Housing Minister Ahmed Hussen in an effort to put issues on the table and hear possible solutions. What was most evident to me were two things: first, that every municipal politician on the call (there were over 200) was experiencing the same crisis and second, that the crisis is being taken very seriously.

This past week Minister Hussen was in Yarmouth where we met to discuss Yarmouth’s housing issues and gather information on programs available to any parties wishing to take on development. The process is not a quick one, but we are at the table and doing our best to come up with solutions. We continue to work with developers on a number of projects and of course things like the price of building materials and the desperate lack of skilled trades people are having an affect, even as things continue to move forward.

In the meantime, I wanted to remind folks of some town initiatives that may help in some circumstances. First, the Town of Yarmouth has a Minimum Housing Standards by-law. For those living in rentals, your rights are protected under this by-law which assures you are living in a safe environment. It is also important to note that the by-law protects owners or landlords who may have tenants that are causing a dwelling to not meet the Town’s minimum housing standards. As cited on our website, all housing within the Town must have:

• Solid walls, floors and a roof to protect from the elements
• Secure working windows and doors (if your doors/windows are drafty, don’t close properly or there are other issues, this can be reported)
• Safe exits
• Natural light and ventilation
• Electricity for lighting and appliances
• Smoke alarms (so important… stop reading for a moment and check your smoke alarm!)
• Plumbing including a flushable toilet, a bath or shower and hot and cold water
• A kitchen
• Heat in cold weather

While not listed, I would mention rodent infestations. No one should be living with that. It’s up to both the landlord and the tenant to look after things like proper garbage disposal so the infestations don’t happen.

The process to report is simple. Call 902-742-1505 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The building inspector, through invitation, will inspect the space and work towards a fix.

Another by-law is the Dangerous and Unsightly whereby the Town enforces legislation under the Municipal Government Act which states, “every property in a municipality shall be maintained so as not to be dangerous or unsightly.”

“Dangerous or unsightly” means partly demolished, decayed, deteriorated or in a state of disrepair that is dangerous, unsightly or unhealthy. This is in place to protect both the tenants and the landlords and includes property containing:

• ashes, junk, cleanings of yards or other rubbish or refuse or a derelict vehicle, vessel, item of equipment or machinery, or bodies or parts thereof
• an accumulation of wood shavings, paper, sawdust, dry and inflammable grass or weeds or other combustible material, or
• any other thing that is dangerous, unsightly, unhealthy or offensive to a person, and includes property, a building or structure
• that is in a ruinous or dilapidated condition, the condition of which seriously depreciates the value of land or buildings in the vicinity,
• that is in such a state of non-repair as to be no longer suitable for human habitation or business purposes,
• that is an allurement to children who may play there to their danger, constituting a hazard to the health or safety of the public,
• that is unsightly in relation to neighbouring properties because the exterior finish of the building or structure is not maintained,
• that is a fire hazard to itself or to surrounding lands or buildings, or
• that has been excavated or had fill placed on it in a manner that results in a hazard.

That’s quite a list and the focus today is on the dangerous points. Anything you see under the dangerous and unsightly by-law can be reported to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. It’s important to look after each other and keep our community as safe as possible.

While these points don’t address the immediate housing crisis (we are working on that), the information here does provide for some assurances of living conditions, ensuring folks can stay in their homes safely and not have to search for alternate arrangements, which we know is tremendously difficult.

There’s so much more to talk about regarding housing, but I’ll end with this: it’s so desperately important that we take the very best care of the housing stock we have: that landlords take excellent care of their properties and that tenants do the same. There are both good and bad tenants and good and bad landlords. But if we show respect for the spaces people call “home”, if we understand the difficulties of being both a landlord and a tenant, and respect each other, the chances of rents having to increase go down and housing stock is maintained. Now let’s sing that together…. R-E-S-P-E-C-T…!

 

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Contacts

Town of Yarmouth
400 Main Street
Yarmouth, B5A 1G2

  (902) 742-2521
  (902) 742-6244

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