Monday afternoon, official Opposition Leader Carla Beck and social services critic Meara Conway called out the Sask. Party for what they said was mismanagement of the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation.
“In a resource-rich province like ours, every Saskatchewan resident should have a roof over their head,” said Beck. “With 3,000 empty units and people struggling with homelessness across Saskatchewan, making housing safer and more accessible is a no-brainer.”
The official Opposition was joined at the legislature by Dominika Kosowska, who spoke to Global News earlier this month about her mouse-infested apartment, operated by the Saskatchewan Housing Authority.
Kosowska lives in an affordable housing apartment in Saskatoon run by the Saskatoon Housing Authority and said she has been dealing with rodents since 2018. She explained that the only solution that maintenance would offer in the beginning was to set more traps.
“I was the one who sealed and patched the entire apartment. I’m the one who changes the snap traps and put them in the vents and everything. Sask Housing has not done anything besides putting more snap traps,” said Kosowska.
“Relocation is not always an option for myself, an immigrant and single mother. I spent the last seven years building the safety net in the community, in the place that I live. I don’t have family here, I don’t have any support.”
Kosowska said she was denied the opportunity to rent other apartments in her area.
“Despite the fact that they have available places in East View, they would not put me there because they said it is a three-bedroom and ‘you don’t need such a big place,'” said Kosowska, “so they found me a two-bedroom on the other side of the city.
“For me to be relocated to the other side of the city, I have to uproot my son’s life, all of his friendships, all of my support networks. It’s not as simple as to just say, ‘There’s an empty apartment a 20-minute drive from where you currently live. Go there, you will be safer.'”
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Kosowska has been working hard to minimize the negative effects that her living situation has on her nine-year-old son.
“I feel really equipped to help him with our current situation, as a trauma counsellor, helping children, I feel really equipped to make sure that my son is not affected.”
Minister of Social Services Gene Makowsky said Kosowska’s living situation has already been addressed by professionals.
“That work is underway. If this continues to be an issue, we will bring back the professionals in the private sector in order to continue to treat it. My understanding is it is not a widespread concern across the many units in that particular building complex. We will continue to work with anyone who brings these concerns forward and that will continue.”
Kosowska denied that this issue was only confined to her unit in the building.
“Two days ago, I spoke to one of the neighbours who is Chinese, (whose) English is not the greatest, and she told me that she saw a mouse running around the hallway on the second floor.”
She said Sask. housing told her to tell her neighbour to simply call building maintenance.
“So many people cannot email the maintenance because they don’t speak English. They don’t know where to go for help.”
Kosowska said that only after constant pushing do issues get resolved.
Makowsky offered to meet with Kosowska, although he explained that the situation is already being handled.
“These buildings are rat-infested, they are exploding. There needs to be action on this now,” said Conway.
On Nov. 13 in Regina, an unoccupied house exploded as a result of a natural gas leak. The house was operated by government agencies. The explosion was felt around the city and there was extensive damage to multiple homes and vehicles in the area. Regina fire reported damage that extended blocks away from the explosion.
The apartment building directly south of the explosion took heavy damage, while the car across the street was torn apart, with pieces of wood impaling the metal.
“There are significant costs to this government’s continued inaction,” said Conway. “Winter has just begun and we have already lost lives to exposure. There is a human toll.”
As Saskatchewan begins experiencing the coldest months of the year, numerous bodies have been pronounced deceased in frozen conditions by police authorities and EMS. The Opposition brought Sask. Health records to the legislature proving that more than 1,200 visits to the emergency rooms over the last three years were a result of cold weather injuries.
“We just increased our 338 shelter units this winter, an additional 60. We are working very hard with our municipal partners,” said Makowsky.
In regard to the NDP claiming that 3,000 units were currently vacant, Makowsky said 700 were vacant for the purpose of renovations, or they aren’t fitting the needs of clients.
The housing authority is currently operating 18,000 housing units and investing around $35 million into upkeep and restoration.