InSauga: Mississauga residents demand their homes back two years after disastrous flood
Posted September 13, 2023
That’s how the residents and operator of a Mississauga apartment building describe the two-year-long process to repair over 30 apartment units damaged in a catastrophic flood that caught everyone by surprise two summers ago.
“It’s really hard because it’s so many years now that I haven’t been in my apartment,” Hazel Thomas, a resident who has been living with her son and other family members ever since the flood, told insauga.com.
In the late evening of Aug. 28, 2021, Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services evacuated over 100 people from a building at 2111 Roche Court. The older building in the city’s Sheridan neighbourhood had flooded during a storm and dozens of people and their pets were bused to the Clarkson Community Centre.
While no injuries were reported in connection with the flooding, the repairs to the impacted units are still ongoing and, two years later, residents are asking when they’ll get their homes back.
“I haven’t gotten any feedback from the landlord,” Thomas says. “I’m seeing people coming in and out, but it’s hard to say if anything is happening. I have some friends in the building and my son has a two-bedroom apartment and I’m living with him. We have so many people living there. I want my freedom back. I want my independence.”
Earlier this summer, displaced residents and their supporters held a speak-out on the property to raise awareness and demand answers. The speak-out, which included about 30 protestors, was organized by Peel ACORN, an independent social and economic justice organization comprised of low- and moderate-income Mississauga residents.
According to ACORN, the flood–which disturbed asbestos that needed to be removed–damaged tenants’ possessions and forced many of them into shelters, hotels and the homes of friends and family members, where many remain two years later.
“Tenants deserve to be back in their units, and tenants deserve safe and healthy homes,” ACORN said in a news release, arguing that the ongoing issues stem from negligence and ongoing issues with plumbing and other building infrastructure.
Thomas said that while her current situation isn’t ideal, she has no other options.
“My son is on the couch. I didn’t want to go to the shelter,” she says, adding that the building’s administration has told her that they cannot provide her with a final move-in date.
“Earlier this summer, [the superintendent] said she doesn’t know when [my unit] is going to be available.”
Balbir Sidhu, a representative of Jamuna Investments, the Vaughan-based company that owns the building, told insauga.com that repairs have been slow due to pandemic-related supply chain disruptions and labour shortages.
“Tenants had to leave after the flood and we hoped to get them back in quickly but that didn’t happen because they discovered asbestos,” Sidhu says.
“It’s the nature of the building and how old the buildings are. We started repairing it. It took one year to clear it and the mould out.”
Sidhu says that when the building was first constructed, codes and regulations were different and it’s taking a while to get the building up to current standards at a time when materials have been scarce and skilled labourers are sometimes even scarcer.
She says Jamuna has been working with the City of Mississauga to ensure the construction is up to snuff and passes inspection, but delays have been common.
“Now, workers are almost closing separation holes and soon [the city] will be checking it again. It’s hard to find the right materials right now, as well as the right workers. Once the city gives us clearance, then other work will start. I have no timeframe right now,” she says, adding Thomas was offered space in another unit.
“Delays are there because materials used to fix holes are hard to find. When we find them, deliveries come late and a special worker has to work on [the project]. We can’t take just anyone. It has to be special people.”
A representative of the City of Mississauga says that a building permit was issued in 2022 to conduct the necessary repairs, but the company does not need to have the construction completed by a specific date.
“There is no time limit on a building permit as long as some work is occurring,” Irene McCutcheon, senior communications advisor with the city, told insauga.com in an email.
Tenants say that while the flood and associated displacement have been extremely stressful, they hope that other issues with the building will also be addressed.
“We have issues with cockroaches and leaking inside our unit as well as in the hallway,” says Michelle Martin, a tenant in the building who was not displaced by the flood.
Martin told insauga.com that water was pooling in front of her unit for quite some time before maintenance was able to get to the root of the problem and fix it. She also said she has needed multiple repairs to the bathtub in her suite.
According to the city, the building was recently inspected by the MARC team and received a passing grade of 55 per cent.
The newly implemented MARC (Mississauga Apartment Rental Compliance) program addresses day-to-day issues in registered apartment buildings throughout the city. The proactive inspection program evaluates building maintenance standards, pest control, and cleanliness.
MARC is not involved in situations where severe damage has occurred and a tenant is forced to leave for health or safety purposes.
According to the MARC inspection report, issued in July, the city has asked the building’s management to “take corrective action” to address issues with the building (walls, windows, doors, etc.), roof, storage and locker rooms, grounds and stairwells.
The report says no action is required in regards to the lobby, elevators, hallways, mechanical and service rooms, laundry room, parking garage, procedures, records and more.
The building is slated to be reinspected next year.
Both Thomas and Martin say the delays have taken their toll on tenants and that more needs to be done to raise awareness. They also said they were pleasantly surprised by the turnout at the July speak-out.
“It was successful and at first, I had a low spirit because there are language barriers and [we heard] that some tenants were told not to come. It turned out good because we got 30 people,” says Thomas.
Martin says they also hope to bring tenants together to demand improvements to the building, which is home to many lower-income residents and new Canadians.
“We hope to come together as a community, as a building. People are afraid and they’re not understanding their rights and the legitimacy of someone knocking on their door. We’re hoping word of mouth, whether it’s in English or another language, the turns out will grow.”
“What I’m hoping for is more daily maintenance of the building. Four other buildings have been renovated and have new balconies and you can spot our building and know, ‘That’s the one.’ It stands out like a sore thumb.”
Jamuna’s Sidhu says that once construction is complete, everyone can finally sleep better at night.
“As soon as it’s done, I’ll be so happy. This is a nightmare disaster. We lose sleep, we call people morning to night,” she says, adding that she hopes the units are move-in ready within the next few months.
“If all these tenants can come back, I can sleep.”
Thomas says she just wants her home back.
“I just hope I can get back into my place and get my freedom back. There are a lot of people who have been displaced. I feel for people who want to go back into their place and want the building to be up-kept. You want to invite people to your house. I want my freedom.”
“I pray for that. It’s too long, it’s really too long.”
Article by Ashley Newport for InSauga