Adam: The City of Ottawa has a certain responsibility to help this landlord

In order for safe injection sites to gain public support, the city and operators must deal with the problems they sometimes cause for their neighbours.

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The City of Ottawa says it is ready to find a solution with the owner of an apartment building rendered uninhabitable by a nearby safe drug consumption site. It’s the right thing to do when so many people can’t find an affordable place to call home.

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The problem with the Sandy Hill building became public recently when the landlord complained that the constant presence of people who inject drugs on his lawn made his tenancy unsafe. “We’ve renovated the accommodations, but we can’t rent them out because I can’t keep needles out of the lawn and people from breaking in,” manager Veronica Ackland told Citizen Andrew reporter Duffy. She asked the city to buy the building, adding “we are open to discussions”.

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City officials now say they are ready to talk. “The City is not currently in talks with the owner of the Besserer Street building, however, we are open to meeting with the owner to discuss future partnership opportunities,” said Paul Lavigne, Programs and Services Manager. shelters for the homeless. an email.

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The four-unit building, across from a supervised drug use site on Nelson Street, is owned by Gorfay Realty. In a Citizen article two weeks ago, Ackland explained that homes cannot be rented under the Residential Tenants Act because it requires landlords to provide safe housing. But with burglaries and the building’s lawn regularly littered with used needles used by addicts to inject drugs, safety cannot be guaranteed for tenants. Ackland said the company installed security cameras, but they were stolen and window bars were broken.

The first reaction of the Coun zone. Mathieu Fleury to business problems did not help. Although Fleury acknowledged that the building was unsafe to rent due to the drug problem, he placed the responsibility on the landlords to resolve the issue. According to the Citizen, Fleury wants Gorfay Realty to install fencing, lighting and security cameras to secure the building before the city helps the company rent the units.

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It gets around the question of why a private company would pay to fix a problem it didn’t create. The drug use site is operated by the provincially funded Sandy Hill Community Health Centre. The city also provides some funding.

There is no doubt that the city is experiencing an opioid crisis that must be addressed. In 2020, for example, there were 127 opioid-related deaths in Ottawa, up from 65 in 2019, a 95% increase. Across the province, 2,426 deaths have been reported, a 60% increase from 2019. A week ago, Ottawa police issued an alert after three people died of a suspected overdose of opioids.

There is little doubt now that safe injection sites help save lives, and that of Nelson plays an important role in this regard. More such sites are probably needed. But it’s not because she’s doing well that the city can say “tough, we’re doing well here, you take care of the consequences” when a problem arises. Although safe injection sites are an essential tool for saving lives, they are not universally welcome in neighborhoods due to related issues such as public drug use and petty crime.

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For venues to have public support, the city and operators need to address these issues when they arise. This is why it is comforting to learn that the town hall is open to discussing a solution with the owners of the building.

Lavigne says the city recognizes the need for affordable housing and continues to “focus on new housing options” as part of its 10-year plan. Now here is a chance to do something concrete. Four units in the Besserer building are empty. The owner is interested in an offer from the city, and the city is open to discussing some form of partnership. There seems to be a convergence of views on this, so both parties had better come to terms with the rental of the units.

Mohammad Adam is an Ottawa journalist and commentator.

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