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Ottawa Citizen: Heron Gate tenants protest troubled living conditions - ACORN Canada

Ottawa Citizen: Heron Gate tenants protest troubled living conditions

Posted July 28, 2011

Jennifer Macwaters has had it with the bugs, mould, broken fridge and flood-prone basement in her Heron Gate townhouse.

“I’ve got two young children living here. I can’t have them living in that. That was supposed to be their play room down in that basement,” said Macwaters. “You ask them to do something, it will take them weeks, months to fix things.”

So when she got a flyer in her mailbox about a neighbourhood meeting organized by ACORN, an advocacy group for low- and middle-income tenants, the 27-year-old decided to put her free time from her maternity leave to work. Soon, she was handing out flyers of her own, inviting her neighbours in the sprawling Heron Gate Village complex of apartment buildings and townhouses to gather Tuesday morning and tell their landlord, TransGlobe Property Management, what they think about the poor state of repair.

Jennifer Macwaters has had it with the bugs, mould, broken fridge and flood-prone basement in her Heron Gate townhouse.

“I’ve got two young children living here. I can’t have them living in that. That was supposed to be their play room down in that basement,” said Macwaters. “You ask them to do something, it will take them weeks, months to fix things.”

So when she got a flyer in her mailbox about a neighbourhood meeting organized by ACORN, an advocacy group for low- and middle-income tenants, the 27-year-old decided to put her free time from her maternity leave to work. Soon, she was handing out flyers of her own, inviting her neighbours in the sprawling Heron Gate Village complex of apartment buildings and townhouses to gather Tuesday morning and tell their landlord, TransGlobe Property Management, what they think about the poor state of repair.

Macwaters said she heard similar stories at most doors she knocked on and didn’t have much trouble convincing people to participate. About 100 people showed up at Baycrest Drive and Cedarwood Drive Tuesday morning to carry posters with pictures of disrepair in their units, chant slogans and march through the neighbourhood.

Peeling siding, crumbling shingles and overflowing dumpsters are visible outside the brown, two-storey townhouses and high-rises. Common complaints include leaks, infestations and misfiled rent checks that resulted in eviction notices.

Ahmadi Fazal said he’s been living with his wife and four children in an apartment in the neighbourhood for four years. He said a leaky roof has damaged his clothing and possessions and calls for repairs go ignored.

“Too many people have this problem with this company,” he said. “Every person who goes to the office, they tell them, ‘We don’t care.’”

The group ended their march at the property management office, where they chanted “Clean up the trash, don’t just take our cash” while passing cars honked their horns. Danny Roth, a representative of the public relations firm Brandon Communications who had been hired by TransGlobe, came out a few minutes later to address the crowd.

“I can’t speak to everybody, because everybody has issues. I’m happy to speak to a couple of people,” he said, while residents shouted over each other about the problems in their units. Roth went back into the building while the demonstrators discussed what to do next, deciding to request a meeting a couple of days later after they had time to compile their concerns

Sedghi Vaseghi, whose mother is a tenant in the neighbourhood, said about 50 people waited more than half an hour for someone to come back out of the office, repeatedly knocking on the door. No one did, so they left, he said.

In a telephone interview later, Roth disputed that, saying the demonstrators left and never returned. He also said TransGlobe offered to meet with ACORN and tenants a week ago. ACORN denied anyone from TransGlobe or Brandon Communications contacted them with such an offer.

Roth said TransGlobe had only taken over direct management of the properties in June, after contracting it out to other companies for years, so he was unable to comment on issues that date before that. He said a $100,000 roof repair project is underway and to the best of his knowledge, there are no outstanding work orders or city inspection notices requiring action in the Heron Gate Village, despite the claims of almost 100 demonstraters to the contrary and a signed notice from a city health inspector shown to the Citizen by Macwaters.

“There’s a certain responsibility on the tenants to participate in the quality of their community,” Roth said. “There is a matter of tenants properly dealing with food and cleanliness and garbage, which contribute to a problem with pests.”

Some residents expressed concern about backlash from their landlord for speaking out, but Jean-Pierre Doumbeneny said he wasn’t one of them.

“It’s a free country,” he said. “I know my rights.”

Original article available at: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/Heron+Gate+tenants+protest+troubled+living+conditions/5163209/story.html#ixzz1TP9AS6QX