Toronto Fire Services releases high-rise violations inspections data – with notable holes

An screenshot of the property list of fire prevention inspections.
An screenshot of the property list of fire prevention inspections.

Dec. 19, 2017

By Arianne Robinson

Toronto Fire Services released the results of “fire prevention inspections” of high-rise residential buildings in 2017 on the city’s website on late Tuesday afternoon.

However, according to the description, the list only includes inspections where “related processes have ended.”

This means that complaints about buildings and unresolved inspections are not included on the public portal.

Captain David Eckerman, media contact for Toronto Fire Services, spoke to Signal Toronto on Tuesday night and called the data provided on a the website a “new initiative.” He said the website comes as a result of citizens wanting to know the status of their building.

Fire Chief Matthew Pegg was quoted in a written statement on Tuesday saying, “TFS is committed to transparency in data reporting.”

It is unclear how accessible the data is given the format. In order to see the details of an entry a separate button needs to activated.

Information about fire violations can be useful to a number of interest groups in addition to individual tenants. Technology organizations with a civic focus may use these types of datasets for their endeavors.

Example of the fire violations found, and fixed, through preventive inspections, found on the city’s website.
Example of the fire violations found, and fixed, through preventive inspections, found on the city’s website.

One example of such a company is Rentlogic, a New York company founded by Toronto-raised Yale Fox. The premise of Rentlogic is to give apartments a letter grade based on a number of factors, including the time between when a violation takes places and when it is resolved, and the time between when the violation was issued and when the score was calculated.

Rentlogic benefits from an open data environment in government where records of complaints by building address are filed with the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development and are available online. The NYC website also has a number of ways tenants can access huge amounts of information about buildings and properties.

In Toronto, without public data on unresolved fire complaints, current and prospective tenants do not have access to the information on the number of complaints about a building and the response by building operators to violations – information that could be useful for tenants when deciding in which building to live.

 

The Rentlogic website describes how it weighs each of its factors: “Our methodology was developed by a team of data scientists in collaboration with our steering board which consists of landlords, tenant representatives, public servants and other key stakeholders from the housing sector. It is designed to be accurate, consistent and unbiased.”
The Rentlogic website describes how it weighs each of its factors: “Our methodology was developed by a team of data scientists in collaboration with our steering board which consists of landlords, tenant representatives, public servants and other key stakeholders from the housing sector. It is designed to be accurate, consistent and unbiased.”