I arrived as operations manager for the North Battleford Housing Authority just over 3 1/2 years ago. I also held positions as asset manager ad general manager during that term. I retired from the hosing authority this past January and have lived in Valley View Tower II since then. To say that living in Valley View Tower II during the past six months has been eventful would be an understatement.
I can say without exception, every single claim that has been made about the mismanagement of Valley View Tower II is true and factual. I have witnessed the seven police cars hauling away drunken disorderly individuals from the building. I have also observed drunks, derelicts and substances 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.
All of this despicable behaviour is very distressing to the many good folks who have made Valley View Tower II their home for many years. What is more disturbing is the manner in which the Battlefords Housing Authority, the Sask Housing Corporation and the government have chosen to deal with these issues. To do nothing would be a shame; but rather than do nothing the Battlefords Housing Authority and Sask Housing have gone out of their way to cover things up.
About two months ago, Sask Housing sent a spin doctor out 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 making and that what we needed was a code of conduct – more rules.
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.
According to a previous story in the press, Sask Housing has stated that they have recently adopted a new policy whereby seniors designated facilities can be used to house whomever they deem appropriate. They also classify Saskatoon and Regina exempt from this policy. It is very short-sight to adopt this policy in a community such as North Battleford with its highest crime severity rate in Canada.
Chronically high vacancy rates exist throughout every housing authority facility in the Battlefords. 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.
Maybe other changes are also necessary ...
The Battlefords Housing Authority