KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – There is both bad news and good news for residents of the Spryfield Greystone Drive area. The residents are tenants of the Metropolitan Regional Housing Authority (MRHA).
The MRHA, one of five Housing Authorities in Nova Scotia, is part of Housing Nova Scotia, a provincial government corporation, with the Minister of Community Services in charge.
Let’s talk about the bad news first.
Mice are back in force in the three units that attracted quite a bit of press coverage after the Nova Scotia Advocate first reported on the huge rodent infestation.
The MRHA started repairs to the three units in April, but these have not yet been completed.
And at a meeting with tenants in early April MRHA committed to a preventative assessment of all 250 Greystone units within two months, but tenants have not seen much evidence of it.
Meanwhile it is becoming apparent that rodents are not an isolated problem in the community.
Jodi Brown, one of the affected tenants, has been doing a lot of door knocking and talking to neighbours lately, and she believes the rodent problem is touching most MRHA tenants in the neighborhood.
“I met this lady, I was in her house, she has four kids and a clean home, very clean and tidy, but she has rats,” says Brown. “And she has bedbugs. They sprayed her house. It didn’t help, because there are holes in the walls between the units.”
Other tenants have birds nesting in their attic, Brown says.
“What about a program that has a contractor go out and inspect all the vents, and put screens in,” Brown wonders.
“This is simple, this is about basic human rights,” says Brown. “You just don’t do this to people, it’s that plain and simple.”
The assessment is happening, MRHA and Community Services spokesperson Heather Fairbairn says in an email, and it is targeted for completion by June 30th.
While the assessment is underway, our pest control contractor is working to address issues of immediate concern and work orders have also been issued to address weaknesses in the building envelopes in all Greystone units, such as gaps around doors, crawl space and attic vents where infiltration can occur.”
In addition, we are working to install community disposal bins to address issues with waste attracting unwanted pests,” writes Fairbairn.
After years of neglect Brown is sceptical.
“They are supposed to do a lot of things, but nothing is getting done,” says Brown. “They don’t have the manpower to carry out the work, and they’re not organized to get anything done.”
“After all the publicity they said my house would be fixed right away. Well, they started, but it is still not completed, and we’re almost into June now.”
There is no cloud so dark or it has a silver lining. Some good things are happening in the Greystone neighborhood.
This is to a large extent because the press coverage energized a community that recognized that things will only get better when it takes charge.
Plans to create a laundromat, and a community store are in the works. A space has been offered up, says Brown.
There is also talk about offering recreation programs for teenagers and younger kids, provide homework support and tutoring, and energizing the local food bank, which has been struggling by some accounts.
A Tenants’ Board is in place, registered at Joint Stocks, to guide the new initiatives along.
“There are five of us on the Board, and we have the support of community policing and the MRHA, and we have volunteers waiting in the wing,” says Brown.
Brown expects that the Board will also become a way to keep the pressure on MRHA to meet its commitments to make the Greystone public housing healthy and livable rather than rodent-plagued and in constant need of repairs.
That will remain an uphill battle, Brown fears.
“The very simple math is that 30 staff to maintain 4,500 units (in all of HRM) is not enough,” Brown says.