By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
The first step may not have moved things very far, but tenants living in horrific conditions at 275 Wentworth St. W. say they are feeling encouraged by the reaction at city hall.
Following a meeting and tour of the building with councillors on Nov. 4, which left many of them shaking their heads, Mayor John Henry, along with a bylaw coordinator, met with members of the tenant association to see the conditions for himself.
“I’m aware and take every opportunity to meet with all residents. So, today I had the chance to meet with the residents here and had a chance to look through the building and I know that we’ve got staff with us here today and there will be ongoing discussions,” he said following a walk through the apartment building, which is fraught with accessibility, pest and unsafe conditions.
Raymond Fortune, the driving force behind the tenant association, was glad to see the mayor come and see the issues firsthand.
“I would like to see not only the city officials, but every different department we can possibly get to come on board and help,” he said. “This is definitely a group effort – not just the tenants, not just the neighbours around here. We need every resource we can possibly get because this has been let go way too long.”
The Oshawa Express previously reported on the condition of 275 Wentworth, which has frequent cockroach and bed bug infestations, along with insecure doors, water-damaged walls and a rash of tenant issues that have gone unresolved by the building’s owners.
According to Jerry Conlin, no reports were filed following the mayor’s visit, but bylaw officers had been at the building recently and several complaints were filed.
“We’ve had officers in the building earlier in the week and have done inspections of the common areas and they’re sending notification to the owner about corrective action that needs to be taken on items,” he said.
While he would not discuss specific issues about the case with The Oshawa Express, Conlin said they all deal with the property standards bylaw.
Requests for comment from the building’s ownership were not returned as of The Oshawa Express’ press deadline.
While Mayor Henry would not comment on the building conditions, he said it was obvious some action was being taken to correct problems.
“There’s ongoing maintenance, you can see that. You can see the crane for the roof, so obviously something is going on here and it really takes two groups coming together, not just the building owner, but the tenant’s association, and you have to be proactive,” he said.
Discussions at city hall have repeatedly returned to the idea of having bylaw officers operate in a proactive fashion and move away from the current system, which sees issues investigated only when a complaint is filed.
However, Conlin says such a change would be a lengthy transition that needs to be discussed beforehand.
“That’s a big change in the way bylaw operates because there are probably bylaw infractions all over the city,” he says. “(Are) there areas that might benefit from that proactive work? There might be, but I think that’s something we have to report on and have that discussion with council before we just jump into that.”
For Fortune, there is no one-size fits all solution.
“I think every individual issue needs to be addressed one at a time,” he says. “Building by building, I think we need to have all of these tenant associations. You can have the same mission, you can have the same goals, you can have the same hopes, but if you don’t have the tenants or the members, it really isn’t going to work anywhere.”
The same was said by Maria McPherson, a fellow member of the tenant association.
“We’re not here to get anybody into trouble. We’re not here to cause problems or riffraff. We’re not here to make anybody out to be a monster. We’re just here as tenants that are trying to advocate for other tenants.”