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'We need help,' Naujaat grandfather says of mouldy home, high rent

Plywood boards were put in place under Lazarie Katokra's public housing unit in February as an emergency repair when the floor in the bathroom gave way, Katokra says. photo courtesy of Lazarie Katokra

A mouldy home and high rent are tormenting a Naujaat family.

Lazarie Katokra's grandson, Desmond Joseph Mingeriak, who recently turned one year old, has been sent to Winnipeg via medevac several times due to respiratory issues. Mingeriak no longer lives at his grandfather's house because Katokra suspects the mould in his public housing unit is contributing to his grandson's health issues.
photo courtesy of Lazarie Katokra

Lazarie Katokra says his grandson no longer lives with him because the black mould found in various areas of his public housing unit could be making the little boy's respiratory condition even worse. Desmond Joseph Mingeriak has already been on numerous medevac flights to Winnipeg despite recently turning one year old.

“He had the hardest time breathing... we have so much mould,” said Katokra, adding that Mingeriak is now back with his parents in their apartment in hopes it will improve his health.

The grandfather said he has complained about the mould and one day, after his wife kneeled at the bathtub to wash her hair and the rotting floor broke open underneath her, Nunavut Housing Corporation (NHC) workers came in February and put plywood in place as a repair. They also covered some of the mould with the wooden boards, according to Katokra.

Further complicating matters, Katokra needed to take time off from his job as superintendent of the community's power plant last August to go on long-term disability. Even though his employment status changed and nobody else in the household works, he said his $1,600 monthly rent bill from the NHC didn't budge.

He can't afford to pay that much, he said.

“We need help,” Katokra stated.

Black mould is visible in the crawl basement of Lazarie Katokra's residence in Naujaat. There's also mould in the bedrooms and other areas of his Nunavut Housing Corporation home, according to Katokra.
photo courtesy of Lazarie Katokra

He added that a housing corporation official told him recently that the 10 occupants of his three-bedroom home would have to move in with his daughter, but when the housing worker realized that would put 15 people in a two-bedroom unit, she changed her mind, according to Katokra.

So now he and his family are on a waiting list for another housing unit and the one he's in would then be renovated, he said.

“There's no empty units here in town right now,” he said. “It's a very small town. We try to be happy here though.”

Eric Doiron, director of policy and strategic planning with the NHC, informed Nunavut News that rental adjustments should be made when tenants inform their Local Housing Authority of changes in employment.

He said the NHC is not aware of the practice of placing sheets of plywood over mould.

Doiron also said that moving from one residential unit to another would occur when a family informs NHC that they wish to downsize. In regards to the maximum number of occupants per unit, he added that NHC follows National Occupancy Standards. Those standards state that there should be no more than two people per bedroom and that parents or couples, as well as household members 18 years or older, should have their own bedroom.

Plywood boards were put in place under Lazarie Katokra's public housing unit in February as an emergency repair when the floor in the bathroom gave way, Katokra says.
photo courtesy of Lazarie Katokra

During the winter session of the legislative assembly, Amittuq MLA Joelie Kaernerk once again pressed Housing Minister Patterk Netser to reduce the rent for occupants of mouldy homes.

Netser replied, “For the tenants who are renting mouldy units, after the local housing organization has investigated the matter, then their rent is lowered.”

NHC president Terry Audla added that the corporation is trying to prevent mould growth.

“For example, determining if the ventilation system in the house is turned off or not being used often enough,” Audla said. “When there is not enough air circulation, the tenant will be given advice on how they can reduce the mould. With the (housing) designs, we have redesigned the houses to prevent mould growth. With the houses that are renovated, we have redesigned the model to prevent the growth of mould.”

In late February, Netser also announced that an independent review of NHC programs and policies would be conducted with an expectation that the study will be complete by spring 2021. That analysis will include ways to improve the existing rent scale and home-ownership programs.

About the Author: Derek Neary

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