EMC News: ACORN calls for action on healthier homes, Anti-poverty group wants tougher regulations on landlords

Ottawa ACORN members rally for Healthy Homes. When Ronny Mosuro moved into her Cedarwood Drive apartment last October, she had a list of promises from her landlord to clean up the unit and rid it of bed bugs and cockroaches. Nearly a year later, the frustrated mother was nearly in tears as she addressed a crowd of protesters outside of Ben Franklin Place on July 11.

Ottawa ACORN, an anti-poverty advocacy group, met outside of the former Nepean city hall to show pictures of rental units in disrepair to councillors meeting for the last time before the summer break.

Mosuro said she moved into an apartment in the east end to save money, but was horrified to learn she would have to deal with insect infestations.

"My kids had never even heard of cockroaches or bed bugs," she said, pointing to an enlarged photo of her son's arm, pockmarked with bed bug bites. 

Jack Bogart, who served as the emcee for the protest, called what tenants living in sub par conditions were dealing with a "psychological assault."

"Living with these kinds of problems deteriorates the health of society's most vulnerable," he said. "It is often the working poor paying market rent living in these conditions. It attacks your sense of self worth."  

Bogart said 60 per cent of the city's population pays rent and that council must work to ensure landlords adhere to more stringent health and safety standards.

The group would like to see explicit time frames in which landlords have to respond to requests for repairs and maintenance. Bogart said they would also like to see the city's bylaw officers equipped with a standard work order form that would be available to tenants and enforce explicit time frames for landlords to complete work ordered by the city.

According to the Ontario Tenants Rights website, if a landlord doesn't make repairs after repeated requests, a tenant can put the request in writing and then contact the city's building inspector. If that still doesn't work, they can call for an investigation into the landlord through the investigation and enforcement unit, through the provincial ministry of municipal affairs and housing.

But Bogart said there is no enforcement.

"The standards we have currently aren't enough," he said.

Blaine Cameron, who lives on Mayfield Avenue in Vanier, said he was trapped in his third-floor apartment several times over the last year because of a broken elevator.

The anti-poverty advocate is confined to a wheelchair and said the mechanical problems made him miss medical appointments.

"No one would communicate when it was going to be fixed or offer to help me to go get groceries or anything like that," he said.

Cameron said he is moving into a residence in September, but feels for the people that will be left behind in his building.

"There's a lot of people who have no choice," he said.

On top of the issues with the elevator, Cameron said the accessibility ramp near the entrance to the apartment building was rarely cleared properly in the winter time. If he didn't complain constantly he would have to rely on passersby to help him inside.

"A lot of people don't feel comfortable enough to complain," he said, adding that it's those types of tenants that fall through the cracks.