Nova Scotia

Deck collapse victim builds housing app to help other students

A woman who was injured in the collapse of a south end deck is turning her experience into a tool for other students.

'You're allowed to ask questions. There should be things that you're aware of'

Amanda Lenko is still in pain caused by the deck collapse. (CBC)

A woman who was injured in the collapse of a south-end deck is turning her experience into a tool for other students. 

Amanda Lenko's Nova Scotia College of Art and Design class is working on an app that could warn other students about poorly maintained properties.

Lenko was one of six students who were hurt in a three-storey fall from a broken balcony in September. 

Lenko said the incident heightened her awareness of design and building maintenance. 

"I just pay more attention to structure and architecture if there's something wrong with a building," she said. 

Her design class's app would allow tenants to rate places they've lived — sending a warning to others using the app. The app will allow users to search by property or by landlord. People who have lived in a building in the past can rate it and describe any problems with maintenance. 

"You look for the place that you've lived, and then you set the icons," Lenko said. "If you've had problems with broken locks, you click the broken locks icon so other people know." 

Students often unaware of rights

Jonathan Williams is the executive director of Students Nova Scotia, which studied off-campus housing for a report earlier this year. He says students are often unaware of their rights. 

"We identified the lack of information and the lack of accountability for landlords that don't maintain their properties," he said. 

Students Nova Scotia found roughly 77 per cent of university students in the province live off campus, and about 17,000 of those students live in the Halifax area. 

Williams called on universities to support more initiatives like the NSCAD housing app.

He said most universities have offices to assist students at finding off-campus housing, and suggested the schools could pool those resources.

Williams also said he'd like to see governments make more information public on which properties and landlords have had problems in the past. 

"In our view, it would make sense to kind of concentrate all this information and these services to students in a single place — particularly in Halifax — so that we can get more bang out of the bucks that we're expending on off-campus housing and really provide students with comprehensive, helpful information," he said. 

Lenko and her team are still developing the app, but they want to make it available through student unions when it's finished.

"Because students are not always aware," she said. "Everyone that was on the deck was a student, and we don't always know our rights, and we just want a very simple way to get the message out there that you're allowed to ask questions. There should be things that you're aware of." 

The team will present its findings at the NSCAD Academy building on Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. 

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