Winnipeg Councillor wants province to license apartment buildings with crime, health, safety issues
Cameron MacLean · CBC News · Posted: Apr 12, 2023 7:26 PM CDT | Last Updated: April 12
A Winnipeg city councillor wants the province to license apartment buildings where vulnerable people live, but which also face recurring problems of crime, health and safety concerns.
Daniel McIntyre Coun. Cindy Gilroy presented a motion to council last month, seconded by Mayor Scott Gillingham, that asks the province to do more to address rental properties with recurring problems, including several in her ward.
"We really want to protect people that are the most vulnerable people, making sure that they have safe living conditions and making sure that these landlords are held accountable … making sure that [properties are] safe, but also making sure that the province is providing the adequate supports," she said.
The persistent problems with the Adanac apartment building on Sargent Avenue, which is in Gilroy's ward, drew the attention of members of the Opposition NDP during question period at the legislature this week.
That building has been the site of two homicides and a fire within the last year.
Ira Hayes Disbrowe, 26, was shot to death at the apartment block on April 18, 2022.
Star Alicia Thomas, 23, died after a fire broke out inside the building on Jan. 3. A 26-year-old man has been charged with second-degree murder in her death.
"The Adanac used to be a decent building that families called home," Wolseley MLA Lisa Naylor said during question period at the Manitoba Legislature on Tuesday.
"But now, it's an illegal dumping ground full of garbage. There's multiple bylaw infractions leading to fires, property crime, drug and sex trafficking."
Properties linked to same owner
Gilroy identified several other properties in her ward that have been the scenes of crime — all of which share an owner in common.
Daniel Michael George Cook, 29, died in a shooting at 583 Furby St. on Nov. 26, 2022. Further south on that same block, at 485 Furby St., police arrested several people involved in a sex trafficking ring in 2015. A sign currently posted on the front door of that building says the numbered company registered as its owner is in receivership. The building is currently vacant.
Another house on the same street, 522 Furby St., is also currently vacant.
A search of city tax records and the provincial business registry shows that one person, Patrick Penner, is listed as an owner of all of those properties.
Penner owns several companies, including Harpenn Construction Ltd., K & P Properties Inc. He is also linked to the Living Recovery Foundation of Winnipeg, a non-profit organization that provides low-barrier housing that was founded by his wife, Karin Harper-Penner.
CBC News reached out to the organization for comment, but a representative declined to answer questions.
Licensing for 'low-barrier buildings'
If passed, Gilroy's motion would ask the province of Manitoba to consider licensing and standards requirements "for low-barrier buildings" that are primarily occupied by people who access provincial programs like employment and income assistance.
It would also ask the province to help identify and track private-market buildings that demonstrate a need for social and mental health supports — based on the number of "recent interventions" by city departments in response to safety and health concerns — and arrange to provide those social and mental health supports directly in the buildings.
During question period Tuesday, Naylor asked whether the Progressive Conservative government would support Gilroy's motion.
Families Minister Rochelle Squires responded that the province has committed $126 million for its homelessness strategy, which includes mental health supports.
In an interview on Wednesday, when asked if she supported Gilroy's call for licensing landlords who rent to tenants receiving EIA, Squires said the program works with tenants individually, not with property owners.
"I have to be mindful of [tenants'] autonomy and their rights, and certainly wanting to look and see what we could do to ensure that there are better outcomes for everybody," she said.
The province currently has representatives on a city committee focused on addressing problem properties. This committee could serve as a starting point for co-operation between the province and city on licensing and supports for tenants, Gilroy said.
Gillingham says he supports Gilroy's motion.
"By partnering with the province of Manitoba and working with Coun. Gilroy … and the landlords that are providing that housing, I think that we can come to a place where we're doing a better job of helping people who are who are living in those places," he said.
Council's executive policy committee will vote on Gilroy's motion on April 18.
We initially reported that Patrick Penner is an owner of the Living Recovery Foundation. In fact, it's a non-profit organization founded by his wife. Apr 13, 2023 12:29 PM CT