Halifax tenants summit hopes to improve low-cost housing

News source from CTV News

Low income tenants gathered in Halifax on Saturday in an effort to improve the quality of their lives.

The tenants summit, organized by ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), allowed residents to share concerns and hopefully kick start a campaign to improve low cost housing in the city.

“We’re fighting for maintenance issues and respect,” explains ACORN member Sarah Byrne.

The organization fights for tenants’ rights across Canada. Byrne points to ACORN’s previous successes like the licensing of landlords in Ontario, or pressing politicians to take positions on housing.

But most in attendance at Saturday’s event were sharing their own stories of frustration.

“I live in the metro housing over in Greystone, and it is the mice. They come, they crawl out from under the heater system, and there’s no way you can get rid of them,” says tenant Eltee Fongbeh.

Whether they live in private apartments or public housing, tenants shared stories about sky rocketing rents, poor maintenance and health problems caused by black mold.

“We need more attention from the government, we need more accountability, we need somebody to step in to make the private landlords, even the city landlords, take action,” says Byrne.

Many tenants feel that no one is listening to their concerns, as attempts to have landlords fix the problems often result in little success.

“The landlords are taking advantage of people who have very little money and very little power, and they’re not treating them fairly or humanely,” says NDP housing critic Lisa Roberts.

The Metropolitan Regional Housing Authority received a somewhat dubious distinction from the tenant summit, as they were voted the ‘number one slumlord in the area’.

But the Housing Authority, which is responsible for the maintenance of public housing, may have its hands tied.

“The actual money that flows to Metropolitan Regional Housing Authority from the province is absolutely inadequate to maintain and invest in all the units that need all the work they do,” explains Roberts.

The group recognizes that there are some good public and private landlords, but they may hold social housing to a higher standard.

“The people believe where it’s a government program, then everything should be in proper place, and everything should be running smoothly,” says tenant Fred Barnes.

For now, ACORN will continue its efforts to organize tenants to fight for justice in housing.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Ron Shaw.





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