Posted July 17, 2019
Everyone in the neighbourhood knows about the rats.
In a quiet section of Overbrook operated by Ottawa Community Housing, residents at virtually any door you knock on say they’ve seen rats on their property in the past week or so.
“It’s been an issue every year, but this year it’s bad,” says Shaun Pepin, who has lived in the area for three decades.
Residents say they’ve found the rodents under cars, in tall grass and inside garbage bins. Pepin says his dog will chase them in the backyard.
Some residents report that the rats have even made their way inside houses. Christian Musoko said he was having a quiet Monday evening at home, doing laundry and watching TV, when on his way to the washing machine he saw a “pretty big” rat scurrying around the basement.
Aside from being intrusive and causing property damage, rats in urban environments can also carry disease.
Lianna Levesque says about four rats have been living for the past week among tires stacked next to a wooden storage bin in her driveway.
Levesque’s young daughters, who display some childlike curiosity about the creatures, nonetheless say they find the rats gross and express fear of being bitten when they go past the storage bin.
“We called Ottawa housing when we first discovered them, and they still haven’t come to do anything,” Levesque says. But she explains that her expectations are low, based on previous experiences with OCH management. “I have issues inside of my home, with mice and stuff, and they still haven’t come to deal with it, so it’s not surprising.”
The residents all claim that the response from the community housing management has been lacking to the rat infestation. “They’re really not doing anything about it,” Pepin says. He says that, despite making “numerous calls” to OCH management requesting that proper pest control be brought in, he has only been provided with some adhesive traps that haven’t helped much.
On Tuesday, the low-income family advocacy group ACORN held a small rat-themed rally at the Overbrook Community Centre. The rat problem was used as a focal point in advocating for landlord licensing, which would place stricter property management requirements on landlords.
Greg Bonnah, an ACORN member who doesn’t live in community housing, but has been an Overbrook resident for more than three decades, says the community has “always been a poorer neighbourhood, but a cleaner one,” but the rat problem in community housing shows neglect on the parts of the city and OCH.
In an emailed statement, an OCH spokesman said the organization was committed to “working proactively with service providers and tenants” to combat the infestations and residents were encouraged to file complaints.
The spokesman also said OCH personnel went through the neighbourhood last June with rat-fighting advice for residents, adding many aspects of fighting the rodents, such as garbage management and lawn care, were the responsibility of residents.
“We take all requests received from tenants seriously, and we encourage them to contact our 24/7 Call Centre at 613-731-1182 to report property issues or request repairs,” the statement said.
Rideau-Rockcliffe councillor Rawlson King says he thinks OCH’s current rat-fighting strategy is adequate. “The key is ensuring there is reporting so the issues can ultimately be resolved.”
Article by Jacob Hoytema for the Ottawa Citizen