Iqaluit vandals smash houses
“It’s not fair to the tenants who play by the rules”
The Iqaluit Housing Authority could build at least one brand new house each year with the money the organization spends on repairing damage caused by vandalism.
“We could be more efficient if we didn’t have to invest our money in damage and vandalism,” said Susan Spring of the housing authority.
The authority bills $112,000 a year to tenants for damage done to houses and apartments. But with most social housing tenants unable to pay these bills, the authority absorbs all but 10 per cent of that cost, Spring said.
The damage often includes broken doorknobs and kicked-in walls and doors, but the most costly damage is broken windows. The authority replaces 55,000 square feet of broken glass each year at a cost of $12 per square foot.
Throughout August, contractors have come back to work on some houses to find damage caused each weekend by vandalism.
On the first weekend of the month the authority began moving two buildings near the beach, close to the museum, to make way for a planned 10-plex development.
After removing the refrigerator, stove and other usable appliances, one house was relocated, but before the second one could be moved, every window was smashed and the furnace tank stolen.
The next week, tenants moved out of another house on the same block and while it was empty, all of its windows were smashed.
“Who’s going to pay for that,” Spring said. “Do we go after the tenants who moved out but still hold the keys?”
Last weekend, a 15-kilogram rock was found thrown through the window of a house under repair. “No kid threw this rock,” said Spring, dispelling the idea that youth are responsible for the vandalism. “It just wastes everyone’s money.”
With a waiting list of more than 100 people who need a place to live, the authority now has 14 houses sitting empty. They won’t be fit for habitation until repairs to damage caused by vandals can be made.
Spring said it’s tenants or family members who damage the properties, and sometimes other people. Often the owners know who did it but don’t do anything about it.
But a tenant is always accountable for damage and must go to the RCMP and to court if they wish to seek restitution. Spring said many are afraid to do so.
It is not only the money put into cleaning up after vandals, but the time and labour as well, that holds the housing authority back.
There are 12 maintenance people who take care of the housing authority’s 436 units. The time spent repairing vandalism has put them 12 years behind on the day-to-day work of routine repair and renovation.
“It’s not fair to the tenants who play by the rules that they have to wait 12 years to get their house painted,” said Spring. “We have to choose that public housing is valuable. It’s not just the tenants, it’s the community.”