Tenants fed up with lack of repair to First Nations N.S. housing units

Click to play video 'Tenants say low-cost housing for First Nations needs urgent fixes' Tenants say low-cost housing for First Nations needs urgent fixes
WATCH: A non-profit organization that provides low-cost housing for First Nations people has come under fire by some tenants. They saw TAWAAK Housing Association’s units are unsafe, with mould and unsuitable living conditions. Jeremy Keefe brings us that story. – Jan 8, 2020

A recent meeting of Nova Scotia’s Standing Committee on Community Services, which centred around affordable housing, was attended by a small group of tenants who are crying foul against their landlords.

Tawaak Housing Association, the organization in question, has been operating in Nova Scotia since 1981, providing low-cost housing to Indigenous people who are transitioning to life off of reservations. They manage about 150 units across the province, most of which are in HRM.

Halifax-area tenant Chantal Chasse was accompanied by a few friends who also live in Tawaak Housing units when she spoke with reporters about what they say is a situation that’s only gotten worse and worse with time.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia affordable housing officials say there’s not enough action in 3-year action plan

“I came here today because someone needs to start speaking out against these people,” she said. “Everyone’s too scared to.”

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Detailing both health as well as safety issues such as black mould, tainted water and unsecured windows in her home she said that although speaking out will inevitably make her living situation more difficult, the problems she and her neighbours face need to be addressed.

“No one had lived there prior to me and my daughter living there,” Chasse said. “Because underneath us it’s nothing but toxic mould.”

“All these problems they’re not getting fixed they’re just being swept under the rug,” she said.

Her health she says, has been affected by these issues. Along with the health of her young daughter whose cough hasn’t subsided for quite some time.

“It’s hard to get better when you’re living in that type of environment,” she explained.

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In a statement the Tawaak Housing Association said their mission is to provide affordable, suitable and safe housing to Indigenous people.

They say whenever issues such as mould are reported they are dealth with “expeditiously to rectify the problem” and that all of their units are serviced by Halifax Water and have had no complaints about quality issues.

Tawaak also indicated they currently have 30 units that have sat vacant awaiting repairs to bring them up to code. They point to decreased subsidies to the tune of 12 per cent each year over the last two years as contributing factors rendering them unable to complete renovations to this point.

Their plan is to use a $7.26 million allocation under the National Housing Strategy to renovate and refurbish them before allowing tenants to move in.

“We will not, under any circumstances place Housing applicants in an unsafe environment that does not meet acceptable standards of health and safety,” reads the statement from Executive Director Brian Dezagiacomo.

“Tawaak Housing and its residents must come together in the true spirit of Reconciliation, cooperate and work in partnership with each other to solve mutual problems,” he wrote. “Rather than tear down the fabric of Indigenous social housing which it took forty years to build.”

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