Manitoba

11-storey Manitoba Housing complex in Brandon nearly empty for 3 years due to ventilation system issue

An 11-storey Manitoba Housing complex in Brandon has sat mostly empty for the last three years due to an engineering deficiency, leaving some who are looking for affordable housing in dismay.

'Code compliance deficiency' discovered after 2015 renovations

Only 10 of the 76 units in Princess Towers are occupied. Since 2015, more than 15 haven't been occupied at once. (Riley Laychuk/CBC )

An 11-storey Manitoba Housing complex in Brandon has sat mostly empty for the last three years due to an engineering deficiency, leaving some who are looking for affordable housing in dismay. 

Out of the 76 units in Brandon's Princess Towers, only 10 are currently occupied, a provincial spokesperson confirmed CBC News. 

The spokesperson said a code compliance deficiency in the design of the building's ventilation system was discovered in 2015 following extensive renovations. At the time it was discovered, only 13 units were occupied. 

"Knowing that there are apartments that could be readily available to assist us … I would like to know why we haven't made this more of a priority," said Brandon city councillor Kris Dejarlais. 

Dejarlais is also the coordinator of Brandon Housing First, which provides support to those looking for affordable housing in the city. 

Brandon has been in a housing crunch the last several years, with a vacancy rate sitting at 1.5 per cent in 2017.

An 11-storey Manitoba Housing complex in Brandon has sat mostly empty for the last three years due to an engineering deficiency, leaving some who are looking for affordable housing in dismay. 1:29

"It's still an ongoing challenge," according to Dejarlais, who said one bedroom apartments can average $750 a month and two-bedrooms for up to $1,000.

He told CBC News two bedroom units are often what people end up finding, which can put a big strain on someone who doesn't need the extra space, and is already struggling to pay rent. "If you're one person in a two bedroom, it's still pretty tough to make ends meet," said Dejarlais.

"You're constantly at risk for eviction … it forces people into living situations that aren't necessarily sustainable." 

A government spokesperson said the ventilation deficiencies are related to the kitchen, bathroom and laundry room exhausts, and include duct sizing and balancing of airflow.

'Frustrating' search for housing 

Still, for those currently looking for affordable housing, taking almost an entire building off the market is a bitter pill to swallow. 

"It actually frustrates me," said Nathan Enns, who has been searching for a new apartment for months. "To know that there's that many potential units available within the city … it just kind of blows my mind." 

The province said the redesign and construction of the ventilation system at Princess Towers is scheduled to begin in March. Too late for Enns, who has until Wednesday to find a new apartment. 

"It's discouraging," he said. "It's actually been quite difficult trying to find something within the city that fits the budget within the city of someone living on disability."