City ponders opening door to permit penalty amnesty program

The City of Winnipeg is to consider whether an amnesty program should excuse penalty fees for those who failed to obtain building permits, in an effort to bring their projects into compliance.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/01/2021 (683 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The City of Winnipeg is to consider whether an amnesty program should excuse penalty fees for those who failed to obtain building permits, in an effort to bring their projects into compliance.

Council’s property and development committee has ordered a public service report on whether such a program should be offered to some homeowners.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES City councillor Shawn Nason (Transcona).

Coun. Shawn Nason championed the change, which he hopes will entice more residents to purchase the correct construction permits and meet safety standards as soon as possible.

“Because of COVID, a lot of people have been doing home renovations… This would educate (them) on the (benefits of) having a permit inspection for life safety,” said Nason (Transcona).

The councillor expressed concern some Winnipeggers may not have obtained permits for projects that could leave them vulnerable to a greater safety risk, perhaps because they weren’t aware they needed them. He said some have also bought homes whose past owners failed to get permits for home improvements, which could leave the new owners on the hook for any penalties.

“Because of COVID, a lot of people have been doing home renovations… This would educate (them) on the (benefits of) having a permit inspection for life safety.”
– Coun. Shawn Nason (Transcona) on a proposed building permit amnesty program

Nason hopes the city can target an amnesty program toward those groups for a one-year period. “We need the ability for residents to get a permit, get it done quickly and be compliant.”

The program should apply only to those who live in an affected home, and require them to address any violations or code deficiencies. Amnesty from penalties would not be offered for projects where the city has already taken “corrective action,” Nason’s motion notes.

Peter Squire, a vice-president with the Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board, welcomed the idea — though he stressed such support is personal and not an official board position.

Squire said he’s aware of multiple homebuyers who received city notices they could be penalized for unpermitted projects, even though the construction took place before their purchase.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Peter Squire, a vice-president with the Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board who has worked in infill, said his personal experience leads him to support the motion of Shawn Nason to offer a limited time building permit amnesty.

“Our homeowners may find themselves in a position where they’re not clear on where they stand and… this may be a way of dealing with all those outstanding permits,” he said. “(It) doesn’t seem fair that this new homeowner is now responsible for clearing it up when they had nothing to do with (the original project).”

However, Squire cautioned the city should also set clear criteria to ensure Winnipeggers don’t abuse an amnesty program by intentionally skipping the permit process and asking for forgiveness later.

“It (shouldn’t) condone or let someone off the hook… when they knowingly should have taken a permit out.”

“It (shouldn’t) condone or let someone off the hook… when they knowingly should have taken a permit out.”
– Peter Squire, a vice-president with the Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board

Coun. Cindy Gilroy, property and development committee chairwoman, echoed the call for clear eligibility limits to avoid misuse.

“We do want to encourage people to follow the rules,” said Gilroy (Daniel McIntyre), adding she supports waiving penalty fees for recent homebuyers who would otherwise be fined for the work of others.

“It might give us the ability to make sure certain work is done properly and safely.”

She said the public service report should offer key details that determine whether an amnesty program is feasible, including what it could cost in lost penalty fees.

The report is expected in about three months.

joyanne.pursaga@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga
Reporter

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.

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