Fire-damaged houses around Merritt might be requested to get repairs soon as the city council studies different options to require owners to restore them.
At the latest council meeting on Nov. 14, Coun. Adam Etchart said the reason behind his request is the number of houses he has noticed around town “that are just sitting with not much action taken towards them.”
“It’s attracting youth and other activities and I really think that we need to move forward because we have a lot of residents asking about what’s happening with these homes,” he said. “They’re concerned that could, you know, maybe a homeless population moving in and animals.”
He added that he is worried that things will just keep getting worse and dangerous. On top of that, Coun. Etchart said that houses that haven’t been repaired might have had their claims denied.
“If there hasn’t been action in several years, there’s probably been a coverage denial and at that point, it will be sitting like that indefinitely,” he said.
At the meeting, Coun. Wendy Charney raised questions on whether or not the Good Neighbour bylaw would be able to address those concerns and enforce owners to fix their houses.
In a response to her inquiry, Cynthia White, chief administrative officer at City of Merritt, said not every building is necessarily habitable anymore.
“That becomes an issue as to whether or not the owner has funds to rehab it. So it might pass a building inspection and be, you know, something that could be a livable residence,” she said. “But if the resident or the owner isn’t able to do that financially then it’s pretty hard for us to say ‘you have to tear it down or you have to (do whatever)’.”
She also added that those properties might cause significant issues for the community.
“Someone starting a fire inside of a home that perhaps is going to be left burning and then it impacts the rest of the neighbourhood,” White said. “People or animals getting inside, it’s just not attractive.”
At the end of the discussion, White added that it would be easy for staff to identify the properties that need some repairs to be done.
“(We can) start talking about properties that haven’t been dealt with since the flood and how long that’s going to go on, and then get some legal support on those things,” she said. “If we have to make some amendments to bylaws to be able to bring those forward.”
Council unanimously voted for city staff to report back on options for requiring owners to repair and remediate homes that have been damaged after a catastrophic event such as fire.