Some Montreal residents looking for affordable places to live turn to housing co-operatives, but advocates insist too many non-profit co-ops are running into trouble because of poor maintenance.
“There’s been all kinds of horror stories all over the city over the years of different things,” said Arnold Bennett, a tenants’ rights activist who runs the Housing Hotline.
In co-op housing buildings, ownership is collective, and residents are responsible for maintenance in exchange for relatively inexpensive fees.
However, the buildings are run by a board of directors made up of tenants. Bennett argues that sometimes, these people don’t have the experience needed in construction, building management or financial literacy to be in charge.
“If they’re not organized and they haven’t put enough money away, they’re gonna have a problem,” he said.
WATCH: NDG tenant comes home to mouldy apartment
On Monday, Global News reported on mould found in a co-op building on Grand Boulevard in Montreal’s Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (NDG) borough.
Vinh Nguyen and his wife Minh Bui returned home from a three-week vacation in Vietnam to find the mould in their home.
“One hundred per cent of the apartment was covered in mould,” Nguyen told Global News. “It’s the first time in my life I’ve seen mould like that.”
The couple says they haven’t been able to live in the home since their return. Ngyuen claims their clothes, shoes, furniture and appliances were also covered in mould.
In an email to Global News, the Fédération des Coopératives d’Habitation Intermunicipale du Montréal Métropolitain (FECHIMM), which provides support, training and advice to housing co-ops, said it was aware of Nguyen’s situation.
Spokesperson Richard Audet said his organization “informed the board of directors of the co-operative about the situation described by the tenant upon his return from vacation. Together with the co-op, we are starting the process now to relocate the tenant to another housing unit that is currently free, as soon as possible.”
This isn’t an isolated incident, claim advocates. One housing co-op on Elmhurst Avenue in NDG closed recently after the city deemed the building unlivable due to a lack of maintenance.
Another on Barclay Avenue in Côte-des-Neiges is expected to close this fall for the same reason.
Housing advocates point out that non-profit co-ops often need help managing unexpected problems.
“Our co-ops lack financial resources,” said Fahimeh Delvar, who started LogisAction to help low-income tenants, including residents who live in co-ops.
“As you know, we don’t have enough social housing,” she told Global News.
“We don’t have enough money to keep our public housing in good condition.”
Bennett, meanwhile, argues it’s not enough for governments to create social housing.
“You’ve got to be prepared to put your money where your mouth is,” he said.
“Support these groups. Support them with regulation, support them with training, support them with money.”