Only a few years ago, the large brick apartment building standing on Saskatoon’s 20th Street West had acquired the nickname the “Notorious 525” for its reputation with crimes and drugs.
With newly renovated apartments and a board game cafe on the ground floor, Chandra Lockhart with Stewart Properties laughed it’s now the “boring 525”.
Stewart Properties took possession of the building in 2013 and has since drastically reduced the calls to police.
“What used to be hundreds of calls every year for that building, we had one call in the last two years,” Lockhart said.
“What used to be hundreds of calls every year for that building, we had one call in the last two years.”- Chandra Lockhart
“That wasn’t (even) anything exciting.”
Stewart Properties and 14 other landlords in Saskatoon were recognized by the Saskatoon Police and the Crime Free Multi-Housing (CFMH) program on Tuesday. CFMH
works with landlords and property managers to bring up safety standards and then supply certification.
“What we were recognized for was having one of the most-difficult buildings in Saskatoon from previous years cleaned up,” Lockhart said.
“We have proper lighting, locks, and we screen applicants very carefully. We teach the tenants about safety, making sure that they don’t just buzz in random people. They are very conscientious on making sure that the doors are closed and locks at all time.”
Lockhart added that keeping the building affordable and providing prospective tenants “second chances” are also a top priorities.
Father-son team Scot and Jim Austin also faced what seemed like an insurmountable task when they purchased Pleasant Hill Heights, an apartment on Avenue U South.
“It definitely was a learning lesson throughout that time,” Scot said.
“The year previous to us purchasing it, there was 68 calls for (police) service to the building. Within the first year, we cut it down about 50 per cent. The second year it was down to 11 calls, and the third year we were down to one call per year.”
Scot said it took a lot of patience and was a step-by-step process.
“We’ve had police officers come in to break and enters and whatnot in the building and they’ve told us that they recognize the apartment because they’ve been in there so often that they know exactly who the tenants were, they know the building, they know the apartment.”
The first year, the Austins made their presence known continuously on the buildings site, Scot explained, so that tenants knew “we were there to help them but also there watching to make sure things were maintained”. The second year, they did a major renovation and implemented security features including an aggressive security camera system and lighting up the entire exterior of the property.
“Security is huge for the current tenants but also when we are interviewing for prospective tenants. They are very receptive to the fact that we have the CFMH certification,” he said.
“Security is huge for the current tenants but also when we are interviewing for prospective tenants.”- Scott Austin
CFMH Coordinator Donna Thiessen said the purpose of the certification is to provide residents with information about the city’s many good landlords and to help landlords keep their buildings safe and secure.
“The overarching goal of the program is to ensure that there is safe and secure housing in Saskatoon at all levels of apartments all the way from market housing to affordable housing to social housing ,” Thiessen said. “Everybody should have access to safe and secure housing where people can feel like it’s a place they want to raise their kids, it’s a place they can feel safe when they are at home, that’s the goal of the program.”
CFMH has worked with landlords to certify 33 safe rental properties in Saskatoon so far and more than 400 other properties are working towards the same certification.
To get the certification, there is a seminar for owners and the rental property must also pass a security audit inspection.
“In Saskatoon, it’s only in the last three years that we’ve really had a recent history of apartment development. Prior to that, most of our apartments were between 40 and 100 years old,” Thiessen explained. “When we go out to take a look at those properties often we were finding that some of the basic security infrastructure is missing.”
For more information visit the CFMH website.