Yellowknife tenants say their complaints aren’t being listened to

Verna Beaulieu has waited five years for her repairs on her broken windowpane in her son’s bedroom.

“The side door is right there,” Beaulieu, points a few feet below. “People would throw rocks hoping I’ll open the door, thinking I’m a doorman, and my window was hit five times.”

She lives in Yellowknife’s Dorset Apartments, one of 32 residential properties in the city owned by the prominent real estate company Northview Canadian High Yield Residential Fund.

Northview owns more than 1,000 rental units, nearly half of the rental market in the city.

She has written to nearly every level of government to complain about longstanding repairs and the social conditions for tenants living in the building. She says her requests are in vain.

“I feel like the more I complain, the more they ignore me because I’ve become a burden to them and it gets to a point where I just give up,” she said.

Verna Beaulieu says she has to use her oven for heat. Photo: Charlotte Morritt-Jacobs/APTN.

The worn linoleum floors are frigid and the walls thin enough to hear a neighbour down the hall cough.

“I have to use my oven for heat. I’ll leave it on for the six to eight hours, depending on how cold it is,” she said.

If Beaulieu uses the burners and the stove at the same time, she said her breaker will blow and she will be without power until maintenance arrives.

In the bathroom, she said the shower water never warms up before turning ice cold within a matter of minutes.

Beaulieu points out the stains left behind from water leaking from the unit upstairs and into her ceiling.

The Yellowknife Housing Authority subsidizes her rent and is responsible for voicing concerns to Northview.

APTN News made repeated requests for an interview with Bob Bies, CEO of the Yellowknife Housing Authority but he didn’t make himself available.

Beauileu’s apartment is on the ground floor and she has worried about her safety.

“This happened when I first moved here in 2016, someone tried to break in here [living room window] and climb in. If you try to open it, the window is loose and will fall out,” Beaulieu said.

She said she requested a repair a few weeks ago to fix the peephole on her front door. The eye hole cover had been pushed in, but she claimed the maintenance crew drilled a second peephole just below but left the toonie-sized hole unfixed.

“It’s really awful. It’s people’s urine and do their number twos even in the laundry rooms in the stairwells, even in the hallways,” she said.

Her story is one of many. Tenants of Northview routinely take to social media community groups to express frustrations around the quality of housing.

“I do not want to live here anymore living under a company that has a monopoly in the city but does nothing to help its people,” said one tenant living in Three Lakes Village, owned by Northview.

She did not wish to be named in fear of potential backlash from her landlord, but told APTN in the two years she’s lived in her unit, the sprinkler system has never worked and her furnace had went without an annual service check.

“If everybody in this 50-unit complex pays $2,200 a month, they’re [Northview] getting over $100,000 a month, in just one area,” she said. “They own, pretty much everything in here, you cannot tell me that they don’t have enough money to create a budget dedicated purely to northern problems.”

Northview northern regional office in Iqaluit. Photo: Kent Driscoll/APTN.

After initially agreeing to an interview with APTN,  Northview ended up sending an email saying it is declining an interview “at this time.”

For Beauileu, who is on permanent disability, she says there are no alternatives but to stay put in Dorset apartments.

“Where am I going to go? What am I going to do?  I’m Aboriginal and I have a feeling that if I try to go somewhere else I might be rejected.”

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