Neighbours demand fast-tracked demolition of Wellington Crescent problem house
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A 93-year-old home on Wellington Crescent faces demolition as neighbours complain squatters have taken over the vacant structure.
The white, two-storey single-family house at 1188 Wellington Cres. has been boarded up for months. It’s about to be razed with no immediate plans to rebuild. The proposal is up for discussion Friday at a special meeting of the city centre community committee.
Next-door neighbour Yu Wang said people have been breaking into the vacant house and causing problems for the past three months.
“They come back again and again,” he said Tuesday, adding area residents are suspicious some of the people squatting in the house are also responsible for a rise in break-ins in the neighbourhood.
Wang said his car was stolen from his driveway this summer after someone broke into his house and stole a spare key. He’s called police three or four times over the past three months, has witnessed young men discussing how to break in through the home’s lower windows, and last month saw a young woman start a fire on the front lawn.
The property’s in-ground pool has been left as a breeding ground for mosquitoes and a habitat for tadpoles, mice are everywhere, and a bad smell emanates from the property, Wang said. “It’s not very safe here.”
He is in favour of the demolition and described the vacant property as “irresponsible” for the neighbourhood.
“They should take it down right away. Either you have it rented out or someone live there, but we cannot have this vacant and abandoned. Rats, mosquitoes, frogs. It’s like a jungle.”
Known as Collard House, the home was built in 1929, and sits on more than 17,200 square feet of land. The demolition would also get rid of the pool and a detached garage. Developer firm Artista Homes Ltd. owns the house and intends to tear it down and rebuild on the property.
The municipal urban planning division is recommending the City of Winnipeg approve the developer’s request to demolish the house without a new building permit, as long as it secures the land and builds a new home on it by 2024.
Typically, demolishing single-family homes is not allowed under city bylaws unless there’s already a permit in place to rebuild within a year, but this “problem house” can’t be ignored any longer considering the number of neighbour complaints and police calls, said Coun. John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry).
“We’re going to have to address it. No one should feel violated in their home. I just find that horrible,” Orlikow said, noting property crime is a concern throughout Winnipeg but the area “spike” has been noticeable.
Complaints about squatters, along with concerns from the home’s owner and police, were the “driving force” behind the demolition request, Orlikow said.
The current owner had always intended to tear down the house, but the process was delayed because there was no building permit. The developer intends to rebuild a new single-family home within the next two years, the city planning report notes.
Neighbours in the area gathered signatures in support of the demolition, which are expected to be presented at the upcoming committee meeting — the last before the upcoming October election prorogues municipal government.
Orlikow thanked the planning department for allowing the public hearing to be held quickly, so the election doesn’t cause a two-month delay. “This would be a problem house for two more months, and people don’t deserve that.”
The city planning department wouldn’t grant an interview request prior to Friday’s committee meeting.
Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.