New Brunswick

Saint John woman raising awareness about substandard housing

A Saint John woman is trying to raise awareness about the number of people living in substandard rental units, the negative impact that can have on their health, and what their rights are as tenants.

Mary Ellen Carpenter is distributing pamphlet entitled Somwhere Safe 2 Sleep

Mary Ellen Carpenter is trying to raise awareness about the substandard conditions many Saint John tenants are living in. 2:07

A Saint John woman is trying to raise awareness about the poor state of some of the city's rental units, by handing out a pamphlet entitled Somewhere Safe 2 Sleep.

Mary Ellen Carpenter contends many people are living in "third world conditions" and says it's "unacceptable."

Mary Ellen Carpenter says the number of people living in substandard rental units in Saint John is unacceptable. (CBC)
"I think we all deserve somewhere safe to sleep."

Saint John has one of the oldest housing stocks in Canada with a rental vacancy rate about 12 per cent and many absentee landlords.

Carpenter believes substandard housing, such as mould from water damage, is hurting people's health, and she wants tenants to know their rights because moving isn't always an option, and even if they do move "there's no guarantee that the next place is going to be any better."

Kit Hickey, executive director of Housing Alternatives, a non-profit organization, says newer buildings are almost completely occupied and many older units are not fit to rent.

Saint John has one of the oldest housing stocks in Canada with a rental vacancy rate around 12 per cent. (CBC)
"Are they suitable, are they affordable, are they adequate? No. For the most part, none of them would pass that test," said Hickey.

She believes the right laws are in place to maintain standards, but enforcement is a challenge.

"Given the number of vacant housing units, dangerous and dilapidated buildings, and the old substandard housing stock, I would suggest it's difficult for the city to stay on top of it."

Carpenter hopes by raising awareness, people will start to ask questions of their landlord and push the rentalsman and building inspectors to enforce the rules.

But she says many tenants are worried to speak up, for fear of losing what housing they have.

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