Urban Indigenous housing in Halifax leaving some tenants exposed to mould

As Melissa Prosper slides open her son’s bedroom window, a brown liquid that has leaked down from the roof and between the panes of glass sloshes to and fro.

It’s just part of the water damage the Mi’kmaw mother says is in just about every room of her unit which is managed by the Tawaak Housing Association.

Prosper said her family is being exposed to mould and has been waiting years for help.

“You can see our problems the past year have been mould,” she said. “It would be nice if we had a supportive housing structure in place but right now this is not working something needs to be done.”

The province says money is on the way to fix the problems.

Brian Dezagiacomo is the executive director of Tawaak.

It’s a non-profit organization that manages urban Indigenous housing in Halifax.

In 2009 the provincial government froze Tawaak’s subsidy and there isn’t enough money to maintain the 54 properties.

“It’s been a desperate struggle and a desperate concern both for Tawaak Housing Association and for the tenants that occupy our residence,” he said.

“We have an old and aging housing stock and it’s in need of major repairs and renovations.”

Prosper has been living in Tawaak housing for eight years.

She said recent repairs were done poorly.

“This is our new kitchen counter that was installed a few weeks ago and if you take a closer look you can see it’s all buckling up and today, I just noticed that there’s also mould growing underneath it,” said Prosper.

She said the conditions have been hard on her eight year old daughter.

“It’s really embarrassing because they don’t fix anything up and it’s just, I’m afraid I’m going to get bullied because of all this,” she said.

The single mother said she’s speaking out for the sake of her children.

“We can’t put up with this anymore we need to stand up we need to fight for our rights, and we need proper housing immediately,” she said.

“I mean this is shameful living like this.”

According to the province, a joint federal provincial agreement will invest in repairs of 111 units by 2028.

“Now what we’re optimistic about is that we are going to be able to rectify these situations that have existed in the past with people that are having maintenance issues,” said Dezagiacomo.

Dezagiacomo said he expects to get the money next year and hire a manger to repair the units.

APTN News requested an interview with the minister of Municipal Affairs.

The department declined the request and sent an email statement instead.

“Every Nova Scotian deserves a safe and affordable place to call home,” said Krista Higdon, communications advisor for the department. “Under the bi-lateral agreement signed with the federal government, the Province committed to repairing 111 Tawaak units by 2027-28. In the first three-year action plan the Province will invest $7.3 million of federal and provincial funds under the agreement, with more to follow in subsequent action plans.”

For mother Melissa Prosper the money couldn’t come soon enough.

She said she doesn’t know yet when her unit will be repaired properly and cleaned up.

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