featured Poverty

Harbour City Homes tenants want seat on Board of Directors

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Tenants of financially stressed Harbour City Homes say they don’t know if  they will still live in their apartments next year.  

We’re like a little mouse in the corner, shoo him away and he’ll go away.” Deb Key, tenant.

Photo Robert Devet

Last summer Harbour City Homes, a non-profit organization that provides affordable housing in Halifax’ North End, sold nine of its buildings containing 34 units. It did so to finance urgent capital repairs to the remainder of its housing stock located on Brunswick and Artz Street.

Displaced tenants were offered alternative units, but the overall loss of 34 affordable units in a neighborhood that is subject to intense gentrification is bad news for low-income residents.

Tenants are concerned because they don’t know what exactly caused the earlier financial pressures, nor do they have any insight in how well the company is doing now.

We’re scared

We’re scared. There has been so much mismanagement with Harbour City,” says Deb Key, a Harbour City Homes tenant and active member of the Brunswick Street Tenants Association. “What’s going to happen to that money that was made in the sale?”

This summer many tenants signed a petition asking for the resignation of several board members who had lost the tenants’ trust, but the group never received a response. Nor has there been any kind of public meeting to update the tenants.

An announcement on the Harbour City Homes website suggests that now that funding is mostly in place “long needed repairs” will begin this summer.

“Where we have failed is in communicating our plans to you and improving your tenant experience. This is of the utmost importance. We will be providing updates through our website and welcome suggestions from our tenants on how we may serve you better,” the statement concludes.

That statement was written on August 7th of this year. No further updates have been provided.   

That’s not good enough, says Key.

A little bit of breathing space

Key is calling for one or more tenants to be represented on the Board of Directors. And if not a tenant than somebody who has the tenants’ trust. Key suggests former NDP MLA Maureen MacDonald, or newly elected North End councillor Lindell Smith.

“We want to have a little bit of breathing space, knowing that there are people on the board that aren’t just going to turn around and sell more properties because they need the money,” says Key. “How many times are you going to need the money? At whose expense? Will people be displaced again?”

“No wonder we‘re worried they’ll sell again. Look at the way social cleansing is happening in our community, how developers are coming in and scooping up every property they can to put up their ivory towers,” says Key.

Being ignored by Harbour City management isn’t helping.

We’re like a little mouse in the corner, shoo him away and he’ll go away. I am upset about this. How dare they not listen to anything we have to say,” says Key.

Last Friday we asked Harbour City Homes to comment on the issues raised by the tenants. We have not yet received a response. We will update the story when we receive that response.

The Brunswick Street Tenants Association will rally for a more diverse board of directors on November 17, at 1 pm.

A search of the Registry of Joint Stocks indicates that Harbour City Homes status was revoked in September of 2015 for non-payment.  A related company, City of Halifax Non-profit Housing Society is active and has a Board of Directors that is identical to the one listed on the Harbour City Homes website.  

if you can, please support the Nova Scotia Advocate so that it can continue to cover issues such as poverty, racism, exclusion, workers’ rights and the environment in Nova Scotia.