North

'Botched' renovations in Nunavik homes will cost $100M to fix, lawyers claim

Nunavik and Quebec's social housing authorities are suing construction companies for a total of $100 million for alleged faulty renovations in the province's northern region.

Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau alleges construction contracts for about 500 homes will need to be redone

Salluit is the second most northern community in the Nunavik region of Quebec. Nunavik's social housing authority is suing construction companies for a total of $100 million for alleged faulty renovations in the region. (Marika Wheeler/CBC)

Nunavik and Quebec's social housing authorities are suing construction companies for a total of $100 million for alleged faulty renovations in the province's northern region.

The Société d'habitation du Québec and the Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau filed three lawsuits between August 2017 and February 2018 blaming a dozen construction companies, architects and suppliers.

It's always raining inside the house through our windows, every window.- Paulusie Saviadjuk, mayor of Salluit

Much of the renovation projects consisted of replacing windows and air and vapour barriers during 2013 and 2014. An estimated 500 homes are affected, according to the three statements of claim filed.

Paulusie Saviadjuk, mayor of Salluit, Que., says he’s been asking the housing bureau to renovate his home again for a year and a half. (Submitted by Paulusie Saviadjuk)

Tenants reportedly found leaking windows and water within exterior walls in renovated homes. When inspectors were hired by the housing bureaus to carry out tests on the homes, they found poor insulation, mould and mildew, according to the lawsuit.

The claims haven't been proven in court.

"When it's blowing snow or raining, it's always raining inside the house through our windows, every window," said Paulusie Saviadjuk, mayor of Salluit, Que., about his home.

Saviadjuk said all the windows were replaced four years ago, but every winter he keeps his heat on full blast. He said he believes his floors and walls contain mould.

Saviadjuk said he's formally complained to the Nunavik housing authority, and has been asking them to renovate his home again for the past year and a half.

Tenants across Nunavik began complaining about renovations on social media in 2013. Many wrote online about cold air entering through closed windows, and peeling walls and floor tiles.

CBC could not confirm whether Saviadjuk's complaints or others related to renovations in social housing are the ones described in the lawsuit.

$100M worth of repairs claimed

Mayor Paulusie Saviadjuk says since his home was renovated, water runs down the walls whenever it rains. (Submitted by Paulusie Saviadjuk)

Jean-Pierre Pelletier, who is representing both housing bureaus, alleges the materials used were not compliant with the conditions set out in contracts and were inadequate for northern winters.

The renovations were "botched," according to the lawsuits.

"At the end we want the job to be redone well. It has not been done well [as we claim] and we want the money back from the defendants to do it again in the correct way," Pelletier told the CBC.

According to the three lawsuits, the windows, manufactured by Fabelta, and the intermediate wall barriers, called Air-Gard and sold by BP Canada, need to be replaced. Several architects, engineers and contractors are also named, including Génivar Inc. (which rebranded as WSP Global Inc.), which was the project manager in the renovation contracts.

"The architects were expected to supervise the construction work, prepare the plans, and assist the project manager to make sure the work was well done," Pelletier said.

"If we think they did not comply with the contract, we ask them to pay. They did not, so we have to go through the lawsuits."

One tenant in Quaqtaq, Que., who asked not to be named, shared this photo of her window with plastic she uses to seal the frame. She says since renovations, snow comes through the windows during the winter. (Name withheld by request)

The realities of building homes in the North require specific building conditions, Pelletier said. Winter forecasts average about –25 C and summer temperatures rarely exceed 15 C in the subarctic climate. Transporting materials to remote villages is sometimes only possible by sea and workers are flown in.

Pelletier said redoing the work will cost about $100 million altogether.

"This amount is bigger because we're in the North," Pelletier said. "It would be one third of this amount if it were a lawsuit down south. It's the cost of building up north that makes it that high."

The amounts claimed by the housing bureaus could push smaller firms into bankruptcy.

Unless a settlement is reached, the lawsuits are expected to be heard in front of Justice Lise Bergeron in the Superior Court of Quebec in the fall of 2021, Pelletier said.

A spokesperson with Fabelta told CBC the company is in the process of inspecting the buildings before submitting a response to the lawsuits.

Lawyers representing WSP Global Inc. and other construction firms said they could not comment.