Ottawa

OCH tenants frustrated by months of low water pressure

For months, the water pressure in Paige Cheverie-Sulley's Ottawa Community Housing unit has been so low it's been difficult to shower or do laundry. Then, a week ago, it slowed to a trickle.

Family unable to properly wash hands during pandemic, woman says

Water trickles from the bathroom tap in Paige Cheverie-Sulley's Ottawa Community Housing unit off Richmond Road in the city's west end. (Paige Cheverie-Sulley)

For months, the water pressure in Paige Cheverie-Sulley's Ottawa Community Housing (OCH) unit has been so low it's been difficult to shower or do laundry. Then, a week ago, it slowed to a trickle.

Cheverie-Sulley lives with her mother and brother on Winthrop Private, a cluster of three-storey townhomes near Lincoln Fields Shopping Centre in the city's west end.

The family has been dealing with unreliable water pressure since the end of June, and at one point this summer was without water altogether for three days. On Aug. 28, Cheverie-Sulley said the pressure fell so dramatically there was barely anything coming from the taps, and there it's stayed.

I don't feel respected enough to be given a straight answer, to have someone sent out immediately to fix this basic human need, which is clean water.- Paige Cheverie-Sulley

"It's been hard not being able to bathe, easily wash your dishes or even wash clothes. The laundry is piling up here," Cheverie-Sulley said, adding it's a particular concern during the pandemic.

"Hand sanitizer only does so much — like, it's nice to be able to wash your hands and to wash other things, especially with everything going on right now."

Cheverie-Sulley says the situation is especially hard during the pandemic. (Joanne Cheverie )

Feeling disrespected

Cheverie-Sulley reported the problem to the OCH maintenance line and workers showed up at her home on Thursday to investigate, but the problem persists.

She's growing increasingly frustrated, and believes it wouldn't be happening if her family wasn't living in low-income housing.

"It kind of makes us feel lesser," Cheverie-Sulley said. "I don't feel respected enough to be given a straight answer, to have someone sent out immediately to fix this basic human need, which is clean water."

OCH said the city has been helping it and its contractors identify the source of the problem, suspected to be an underground rupture that's affecting 12 units.

"Since the incident was reported, OCH's staff has been in contact with tenants impacted by providing notices, updates, water and other support as needed," said OCH CEO Stéphane Giguère in an emailed statement. 

"It is our understanding that tenants have water but that the pressure is unreliable. We continue to update tenants as the situation evolves."

Cheverie-Sulley says her family has already gone through the water OCH gave them for the week. (Paige Cheverie-Sulley)

Chronic disrepair common: ACORN

Housing advocates in the city say issues like this in lower-income buildings are chronic, and common.

"It's devastating to hear that she's having to suffer like this. Unfortunately, we've heard many, many stories across the city that are very similar," said Norma-Jean Quibell with advocacy group ACORN.

"Whether it's a large landlord or a small private landlord or OCH, we have heard many problems with disrepair and critical issues like water being shut off for days on end," Quibell said.

In August, the city passed a new rental housing property management bylaw, which tightens the rules around how the maintenance of rental buildings, including social housing, is handled.

The bylaw doesn't go into effect until next August, however, and advocates are calling on the city to speed it up.

About the Author

Natalia is a multi-platform journalist in Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador.

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