Sanford apartment residents pleading for help amid worsening conditions
Desmond McIntosh, 74, has paid his rent on time, in full, for as long as he can remember.
He pays $776 per month, plus hydro, at 150 Sanford Ave. N. He has this month’s rent in his wallet. He can pay it. But for the first time, he refuses.
"It’s in my pocket now, but where this place is going now, it’s a dump," he said. "I lay on my bed and I have to cover up with a blanket because there’s cold air coming through. This place is going bad. There is nothing here."
It’s McIntosh’s act of rebellion in a building full of tenants who are fed up with the deteriorating conditions in which they live and the apparent neglect of the building and their concerns.
There are bed bugs and cockroaches. There are holes in the ceiling. Garbage spills out of the clogged chutes, causing a stench. There's urine and feces on stairwells, Some units are so cold that ice has formed on the insides of their balcony doors. Tenants have taken to patrolling hallways at night to keep out squatters. Tenants are trying to organize to get some action from anyone who can help.
Dan Gushie moved in after seeing an ad for a luxury apartment on Kijiji. The reality, he said, is "just unbelievable."
Bed bugs run rampant in the 13-storey building. The building’s residents, most of them low income, pay again and again to get rid of them, but the insects crawl through light fixtures and vents, multiplying in the walls.
So do cockroaches. McIntosh’s step-daughter Amanda Ramcoar, who lives down the hall on the third floor, says when she’s trying to cook meals for herself and her two-year-old daughter, roaches fall from the ceiling.
"It’s like nobody cares about the building.- Shelley Gushie
Heat is weak or, in some cases, non-existent. Ramcoar puts sweaters on her daughter, and her bedroom is too drafty to use.
Garbage piles up outside. When the garbage wasn't emptied, the chute was jammed up to the sixth floor. There’s urine and feces — possibly human, possibly animal — in the stairwells. Part of a metal strip along the curb has come loose, and is held down by a brick. One of the two elevators is broken, with no sign of it ever being fixed.
Gushie and his wife Shelley, who live on the sixth floor, say their balcony is dangerous, and others are as well. He says he was out on the balcony having a cigarette when a chunk of concrete fell from it.
"It’s like nobody cares about the building," Shelley said.
The secure entrance only works some of the time. Apartments sit vacant, inviting squatters. Fed up, some residents have started patrolling. Lynn Oerlemans, Shelley Gushie’s 62-year-old mother, says she and her neighbours walk the building several times a night to locate and shoo away people who don’t belong there. One vacant apartment, tenants say, recently had two abandoned dogs in it.
Coun. Matthew Green of Ward 3 is trying to help. He assembled an emergency meeting on Dec. 29. About 70 residents attended the standing-room-only gathering.
Tenants have formed a committee
Green has worked with the tenants to form a committee. That committee is identifying issues the tenants can take responsibility for, such as the illegal dumping around the building. He’s also working with volunteers to conduct a door-to-door survey to compile a list of concerns. Green will present them to the building owners.
There are other buildings with issues in Hamilton, Green said. What’s exceptional here, he said, is the scale of neglect.
He called the property manager and city bylaw officials on Wednesday, he told residents on Facebook, to look into the heat and elevators.
The city already has a property standards order against the building, and its owners have until Jan. 30 to comply. It has also issued two yard maintenance orders.
The building is owned by Tourbillon Facility Inc., a corporation that lists 150 Sanford as its only property in Hamilton. The signs around the building show that it's managed by Ark Property Management, although the number on the signs is out of service. Online listings for apartments — which range from $750 for a bachelor to $1,195 for a three bedroom — are listed under Precise Capital Management. Phone calls to the number listed for Precise Capital Management go to the Ark Property Management office.
Owned by Toronto-based real estate investors
Tourbillon’s principle directors are Toronto-based investors with deep ties with the real estate industry. Daniel Gryfe, a director, is involved in half a billion dollars in deals, a Bisnow article says, including a $40-million portfolio of mixed-use properties in the GTA. His family runs a long-standing Toronto bagel business, Gryfe’s Bagel Bakery.
I would move tomorrow. If that was on the table, I’d be the first one to jump on it. I just hate it here. I can’t stand it.- Dan Gushie
Marc Bistricer is listed as an officer and director in the corporation, and Hanan Shemesh is a director. Bistricer’s address in the corporation profile is the same as the Talisker Corporation, whose chairman and CEO is Jack Bistricer. Talisker is a multi-million-dollar corporation that operates ski resorts and leases retail floor space, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. It has properties in North America, the United Kingdom and Eastern Europe.
Calls from CBC Hamilton to Gryfe and Bistricer were not returned this week.
Green said a new property management company has taken over, but declined to name them. He said the new company is just taking over and is trying to deal with the situation.
Residents of 150 Sanford have started a Facebook group to vent their frustrations and keep each other informed. Photos posted show bed bugs crawling through light fixtures and large holes in ceilings and walls. A group of tenants have posted notice of their own increased vigilance on the windows, citing “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.”
'I just hate it here. I can't stand it.'
In the meantime, the buzzers at the entrance don’t work, Ramcoar said, and neither do the laundry cards. There are also major problems with the roof, Dan Gushie said.
Most of the residents would love to move, said Melissa Cox, who lives there with her two young children, aged four and three. She was drawn there because the company didn’t require credit checks. She started off in one apartment, but it was overwhelmed with bed bugs. The property manager moved her to another apartment, and that got infested too.
Many of the residents are already on long waiting lists for social housing, Green said. Ramcoar has been looking for a new place for months, but has so far been unable to find anything she can afford in the area.
Dan Gushie wants to move too. “There are so many problems with this place,” he said.
“If they gave me half the money I’ve put into the place, I would move tomorrow. If that was on the table, I’d be the first one to jump on it. I just hate it here. I can’t stand it.”