Group unhappy with ongoing construction at McMaster residence seek meeting as collective

Click to play video: 'Students demand action from McMaster University as new residency faces unsafe conditions amid construction'
Students demand action from McMaster University as new residency faces unsafe conditions amid construction
WATCH: Students living in a new residency at McMaster University say they are being plagued by poor water quality, bug infestations and more unsafe conditions. The slew of problems comes amid ongoing construction work, and has triggered tenants to pen a collective letter demanding action from the institution – Dec 7, 2023

Editor’s Note: This post previously referred to a “boil advisory” issued to residents at 10 Bay Street by McMaster University. A spokesperson for the learning facility has clarified that an “advisory” was never issued, just “directions for boiling and other ways of sanitizing water” in a letter to occupants. This story has been altered to accommodate that actuality.

A pair of residents battling ongoing water and construction-related problems at a brand-new downtown McMaster University dwelling say they’re still heeding the learning facility’s recommendations for boiling and sanitizing water, even though taps were shut off Tuesday to “flush” the building’s system.

Navid Jalali, also a CUPE 3906 Tenant Working Solidarity Group member, says he expects to keep consuming bottled water the university is providing until staff reach out to him and his colleagues.

However, those face-to-face get-togethers with the occupants of 10 Bay St. will not be as a group, but one on one.

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“The management has refused to meet with the union. They just wanted to meet with us one by one,” Jalali explained.

“These problems are for the building as a whole and the union wants to meet with the management as a group.”

That edict was in a university update sent to students on the weekend explaining how “external water consultants” advised “a chlorination process” for Tuesday to sanitize the building’s water system.

“Once a water test is complete at 4 p.m., students will need to run their hot and cold water from the washroom and kitchen faucets for 30 minutes before use,” the letter said.

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William Galloway, also a tenant at 10 Bay paying more than $1,300 a month on rent, says the university has made good on some relief for tenants in the form of temporary rent reductions of 50 and 25 per cent in recent months.

Additionally, partial refunds on nearby parking were given since underground parking at the new building is still incomplete.

However, like Jalali, Galloway is calling for their landlords to meet with tenants as an ensemble, and not individually.

“We refused that … because we want them to talk to us collectively,” Galloway insisted.

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“The issues are collective and there’s still a lot of things that haven’t been addressed.”

Several students say a slew of problems, like electrical outages, bug infestations and contaminated water, have plagued the facility since moving in for the fall semester.

A letter from the group to the university last week outlined their concerns and lists demands for action, including partial rent refunds and an external third-party hazard review.

A Dec. 7 email to Global News from McMaster’s media relations manager, Wade Hemsworth, said the university recognized that ongoing construction created challenges for residents and has been working “as quickly as possible” with its development construction partners to address all students’ concerns.

“We made the decision to open the lower floors of 10 Bay while the upper floors and building amenities were still being completed because we know how challenging it is for students to find safe and academically-supportive housing,” Hemsworth said.

“Tenants were advised in advance that they were moving into a building where construction was still taking place. As this continues, we ask that students continue to share their concerns with us, so that we can find solutions and deliver a great residence experience.”

Hemsworth also said it’s recommendation for water sanitization was “out of an abundance of caution” and that the attached parking garage is expected to open early next year.

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Students are currently permitted to park in a McMaster surface lot across the street.

The university says due to “the personal nature of housing arrangements and needs,” they are asking tenants to speak with their Bay Street team directly suggesting it would be the “most productive, effective and direct way” to respond to individual concerns.

Global News has also reached out to Knightstone Capital Management Inc., the developers behind the build, but has not heard back.

Hemsworth said the university’s recent water testing confirmed the presence of total coliforms — a type of bacteria — in the building’s water system.

However, the learning facility insists it’s “typically not harmful nor causes health concerns” based on Public Health Ontario data.

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