Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Apartment-condo converts eyed

Report urges boost to consumer rights

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A city report calls on the province to introduce more consumer protection for people who purchase apartments that have been converted into condos.

Winnipeg's public administration investigated strategies to address the city's rental shortage last year, and its report was posted online Friday morning. Winnipeg's apartment vacancy rate is among the lowest in Canada, hovering at 0.8 per cent. The vacancy rate has been at or below two per cent since 2000.

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The report says the conversion of existing apartments into condos is contributing to the rental shortage. It suggests city council urge the provincial government to change the Condominium Act to require developers who convert apartments into condos to put seed money in the building's maintenance reserve fund in advance. The reserve fund's balance should also be disclosed to potential buyers, the report said.

Property and development chairman Coun. Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan) said many converted condo units are renovated to look nice, but buyers don't have all the information about common elements such as the life of the elevator or the roof. That means they could get stuck with a huge bill down the road if there's not a large enough balance in the building's maintenance reserve fund, he said.

The province regulates condo conversions, and the report said Winnipeg has no authority to curtail condo conversions. The city report also calls on the city to stimulate new rental construction by revising federal tax policies to remove barriers that discourage rental developers from building new units.

Council's property and development committee will consider the report's recommendations at a meeting on Tuesday.

"Our vacancy rates are exceptionally low," Browaty said.

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An Exchange District loft developer will appeal an order that calls on his company to repair and clean up a Princess Street building to meet standards.

An inspector issued an order to the Nexus Loft Development Corp. in April to fix loose, damaged and missing bricks at 242 Princess St., which are in danger of falling onto the sidewalk. The inspector noted there is poor drainage and water pooling on one side of the building, which is causing "significant shifting and damage to the foundation." The inspection report found an unacceptable accumulation of garbage and debris and that the company must provide a plan to show how the building can be brought into compliance.

In a letter to the city, Nexus argues the property has been developed with approved building permits, and it is unfair to change existing bylaws without giving proper notice to building owners. The company says the loose bricks are the result of a sidewalk the city has not maintained and have caused the building "extensive damage."

An appeal hearing is slated for Tuesday's property and development committee meeting.

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

Fee mulled for honorary street renaming

Winnipeg will consider charging additional fees for renaming a city street in someone's honour.

A new report introduces a street-naming policy and suggests council charge a $150 application fee to add a street name on Winnipeg's reserve list, a $150 application fee to name a street in someone's honour and a $200 installation fee for honorary street-name sign-toppers.

The report said Winnipeg does not have a standardized street-naming policy, and needs to make the process more efficient in an effort to avoid confusion. It also says the city is currently absorbing the costs associated with this process.

The report said there should be "thoughtful criteria" for choosing names to honour noteworthy people, related to Winnipeg, and there should be better consultation with affected property owners, tenants and businesses when street names are changed. The report says the city should compensate affected property owners and businesses for "reasonable out-of-pocket expenses" when street names are changed.

In 2009, Winnipegger Paul Armstrong asked council to consider honouring Olympic cyclist and speedskater Clara Hughes by renaming a street after her. City planners eventually recommended the idea be rejected, and Winnipeg find another way to honour the athlete, who has won six Olympic medals.

The issue prompted council to develop a new policy for renaming streets.

-- Skerritt

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 4, 2011 B2

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