In the wake of recent reports of complaints by tenants about living conditions at Valleyview Towers in North Battleford, a resident of Tower II has come forward to raise his concerns about North Battleford Housing Authority’s management of the buildings.
Darryl Mills, a past operations manager at North Battleford Housing Authority/Battleford Housing Authority, contacted us to outline his concerns about the recent problems at Valleyview Towers.
Mills responded to reports in the News-Optimist of tenants’ concerns about drugs, parties, prostitution and police calls to the buildings. Mills told the News-Optimist those complaints are accurate.
“Everything that the tenants were saying about the problems at the building are 100 per cent true,” Mills said.
Mills said he witnessed the problems himself, including the incident in which he saw seven police cars called to the building. “I arrived home in the middle of it,” he said.
The News-Optimist also reported on the response from the Ministry of Social Services to concerns Valleyview Towers were no longer being administered as a seniors-only housing complex. The ministry responded that Valleyview “has always been social housing.”
“Everything that you’ve been told by the government is misleading at best,” Mills said. He characterized it as “probably the official line” from the government, but pointed to management at the Battlefords Housing Authority as having “gone in a direction that is totally off the map.”
Mills also sent a letter to the News-Optimist dated July 8 stating his concerns in detail. In the letter, he spelled out some of the behaviour he had seen in Valleyview Tower II.
“I have witnessed the seven police cars hauling away drunken disorderly individuals from the building. I have also observed drunks, derelicts and substance abusers passed out in numerous locations throughout the building. I have observed non-residents doing shopping carts full of laundry on a Sunday afternoon. I have – on many occasions – smelt tobacco and marijuana smoke wafting in the hallways outside of the same suites. I have observed what appeared to be prostitutes regularly entering and leaving certain suites. I could go on, but I have made the point.”
Mills also mentioned a meeting at Valleyview Towers held two months ago in which Sask Housing sent out a representative, who Mills characterized as a “spin doctor,” from Regina to “change the conversation”.
“He asked 12 carefully selected tenants to meet him and answer a carefully framed set of questions to get the answers they wanted as to what the problems were. There was then an open meeting where tenants were told the problems were all of their own making and that what we needed was a code of conduct – more rules,” states Mills in his letter.
He wrote, “The problem is not a lack of rules. The problem is a gross failure to enforce the rules that are already in place. Every tenant has signed a very comprehensive lease agreement. Every citizen is also bound by the Criminal Code, the Human Rights Code and numerous other bylaws etc. that govern public health and safety. The Saskatchewan Residential Tenancy Act states that it is the landlord’s responsibility to provide quiet enjoyment of a safe residential dwelling place. This is simply not being done.”
In meeting with the News-Optimist, Mills further alleged that the problems at Valleyview were largely the result not so much of “younger” tenants, but of several “hard-to-house” clients being accepted as tenants in the building.
He believes these clients can be accommodated at other North Battleford Housing Authority properties elsewhere in the city.
He also takes issue with a Sask Housing policy where seniors-designated facilities can be used to house whomever they deem appropriate.
Mills pointed to the buildings being designed specifically with the understanding that they were seniors housing, with common areas on most floors.
“Chronically high vacancy rates exist throughout every housing authority facility in the Battlefords,” he told the News-Optimist in his correspondence. “It might have been much more appropriate if some proper strategic planning could have taken place and other more suitable facilities could have been utilized for these hard-to-house individuals.”
Mills also expressed concern about the condition of many housing authority properties, which he believes has deteriorated due to lack of staff and poor planning. He compared the Battlefords to other authorities, some of which, at his time of employment, had twice the staff with far fewer housing units.
Mills’ remarks were made prior to the News-Optimist’s interview with Herb Cox, MLA for the Battlefords, on Wednesday. Cox has said he has been made aware of the problems at Valleyview Towers, has been in contact with Social Services and has been seeking a resolution to the issues in the building.