The "winners" of a contest to find the worst welfare housing in Manitoba have been revealed, and feature everything from exposed wiring to lockless exterior doors to bed bugs.
The Employment and Income Assistance Advocates Network ran a contest to find photo evidence of the worst welfare funded homes in the province.
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Three winners were selected and photos of the units were shown in various states of disrepair. Leaking roofs, mouldy bathrooms, bed bugs, cockroaches, exposed wiring, peeling linoleum, expired fire extinguishers and doors missing interior locks could all be seen in contest photos.
The identities of the renters could not be revealed, as EIA activists said the individuals feared being evicted from their homes.
Marianne Cerilli works with the Social Planning Council, a non-profit agency that advocates for low-income families and inclusive community planning.
She said those pictures aren’t isolated to a few places, and poor conditions are prevalent in welfare-funded housing.
"Welfare is spending millions of dollars a year on renting apartments that are substandard, and we think the public should be concerned about that," said Cerilli.
Rental allowance stays stagnant
The average rental allowance in Manitoba is $285, and the three winning units rent for between $285 and $375 per month.
Earlier this year, Manitoba’s Opposition Tories called for an increase to the rental allowance, pointing to the fact inflation has pushed rental values up in Manitoba.
A one-bedroom apartment that rented for $491 in 2000 went for $776 in 2012, an increase of more than 60 per cent. In 1992, the average rental allowance was $271. In 2012, it went up to $285.
Can’t afford to move
Winnipegger Monique Belleau can’t work because of a disability and relies on social assistance.
She said people like herself can’t just move to places that are better kept because they’re hard to find.
"You can’t get much for $500, $600. Everything is from $900 to $1,500, and we don’t have that kind of money," she said. "So we end up staying where we are."
She said living in substandard conditions is degrading and frustrating.
"It’s very humiliating. You feel very frustrated and low. It makes you feel lesser than a person," she said. "It just makes you feel bad inside because you can’t afford to move."
Belleau hopes the rental allowance will be increased, so she and other people like her can move themselves out of slum apartments.
"Nobody cares enough to think about what we are living in," she said. "The mayor and all those people in Parliament Hill should take a long, hard look at what they are making us live in."