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‘Nobody wants to live like this’: Father plagued by cockroach infestation at Calgary Housing complex

‘Nobody wants to live like this’: Father plagued by persistent cockroach infestation at Calgary Housing complex
A Calgary father says more needs to be done to deal with a cockroach infestation in a city-owned apartment building. As Adam MacVicar reports, the problem has been keeping him up at night for months on end.

A Calgary father says the cockroach infestation in his city-owned apartment complex is so bad that even weekly exterminations aren’t keeping the bugs out of his and his childrens’ beds.

Chris McKenzie and his two daughters moved into the building in July 2019, but it took until October for him to notice an increasingly troubling cockroach infestation.

“Dozens a day,” McKenzie said. “At one point the traps were so full you couldn’t put another bug on it.”

The building is located in Bridgeland and is managed by the Calgary Housing Company (CHC), which provides subsidized affordable housing units to over 25,000 Calgarians.

“The opportunity that I had to move into Calgary Housing was a financial plus, I was like, ‘Oh wow, I can save so much money, we can build for a better future,'” McKenzie said. “But now I’m just kind of like, ‘I should’ve just stayed where we were and lived humbly.'”

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McKenzie routinely checks bait traps placed throughout his apartment, and each check reveals several dead cockroaches.

One trap in McKenzie’s apartment with several cockroaches inside.
One trap in McKenzie’s apartment with several cockroaches inside. Adam MacVicar / Global News

According to McKenzie, there are cockroaches in every area of the apartment from the living room, to the bathroom and even his daughters’ room.

His two four-year-old girls now sleep in his room as the bugs have climbed onto their beds at night.

A contractor hired by CHC has been fumigating the units once a week since October, but the cockroaches keep coming back.

The weekly extermination means that in addition to dealing with the bugs on a daily basis, every Tuesday McKenzie has to scrub every surface in his home with warm water, throw out food, pack his family’s belongings in boxes, and re-arrange the furniture so the exterminators can get near the cockroaches.

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Chris McKenzie stands by a cluster of his belongings that have been moved to allow exterminators to fumigate his apartment.
Chris McKenzie stands by a cluster of his belongings that have been moved to allow exterminators to fumigate his apartment. Adam MacVicar/Global News

“Every week having to pack up your home — it’s to a point where I just can’t do it no more,” McKenzie said. “Nobody wants to live like this.”

McKenzie said the unending cockroach is not only having a negative effect on his life, but his two daughters’ as well.

“The girls’ birthday was on Jan. 30. I invited eight families and the little ones to come — six of the families declined because they know of our problem, they don’t want to bring it into their homes,” McKenzie said.

“As a parent, how do you explain something like that to your little girls?”

CHC management told Global News it’s aware of the cockroach issue and taking steps to tackle the infestation, as well as giving tenants information on preventing any spread of the bugs.

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“Health and safety are our number one priority and our tenants are our number one priority, so we work with the tenants closely and we’ve been working for the last six months with them on this,” CHC housing services manager Greg Wilkes said.

CHC said the weekly fumigation forces the cockroaches to move to a different area in the complex.

A notice of entry into Chris McKenzie’s cockroach-infested apartment.
A notice of entry into Chris McKenzie’s cockroach-infested apartment. Adam MacVicar/Global News

McKenzie said in an attempt to keep the light-sensitive cockroaches from spreading, he leaves the lights on day and night, which is driving up his electrical bill.

He’s requested a transfer to a different complex managed by the CHC, but said he’s been told he’s not on the priority list.

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“I get that, there are other people who are in desperate need of homes because they’re living on somebody’s couch or living out of a car,” McKenzie said. “But at the same time, I wouldn’t want somebody that’s living in a car moving into a place like this.”

Until then, McKenzie said he and others in the building just want a solution.

“I’m sure I’m not the only one who wants to know why is this ongoing for so long,” he said.