New housing standards for people with disabilities will do 'horrendous' damage, advocate warns
Agencies say safety standards meant to protect people with disabilities will lead to evictions.
Provincial housing safety standards will hurt the people with disabilities they're supposed to protect, says an Edmonton non-profit group.
“The damage it will do to individual and families’ lives is horrendous,” said Marie Renaud, executive director of the LoSeCa Foundation, a non-profit group that supports people with disabilities.
The province introduced the PDD Safety Standards last year. Under the new requirements, Renaud said the homes, condos and duplexes owned or rented by her agency must install sprinkler systems, firewalls and fire exits.
“It’s unbelievable. We’re at a place where we don’t know what to do. So do we sell the house, do we give notice to people … I mean who has 50, 60 thousand dollars to do this?” she asked.
Renaud said she has tried several times to contact the province and the city about her concerns.
Merlin Maciocha, 51, is one of 80 clients Renaud is now worried about. Despite significant mental and physical disabilities, he lives in a north Edmonton home, where he likes to watch TV and share meals with his three roommates.
"They're just one happy family. And living in a community, they’re living like all of us are, we can come down and visit,” said his mom, Hertha Maciocha, calling it the ideal place for her son.
"I would be very heartbroken,” she said, learning this week that her son’s home for the past decade is how in jeopardy.
“It’s important to make sure that they’re safe,” said Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona, who agrees with the regulations “in principle”.
“But you need to fund it. You don’t just direct it and then wash your hands of it.”
She said the province is imposing standards it can't meet in its own buildings.
The province said PDD agencies were consulted on the new standards, which come into effect Apr. 1, 2015. A spokesperson said, “we don’t compromise on the safety of people with disabilities.”