Fire exposes deplorable living conditions inside Moncton rooming house
Some charitable organizations are sounding the alarm after a weekend fire exposed deplorable living conditions in a rooming house in Moncton.
The groups say deteriorating buildings and a lack of power and water are becoming all-too-common for the less fortunate.
“I don’t think anyone would let their family members stay in these places if they saw them,” says Jason Surette, the founder of Big Hearts Small City.
Patrick MacInnis was one of five people who went without power for weeks in the rooming house before the fire.
“We had candles going, we had everything we could for heat, we were always wearing winter clothes, even to bed, wearing sweaters, long johns,” says MacInnis.
One of those candles caught on a curtain, resulting in a fire and prompting action from the Moncton Fire Department, which was taken aback by the squalid living conditions.
“We’ve boarded up the building and are now dealing with the owner of the property to either repair it or have it demolished,” says Fire Chief Eric Arsenault.
The rooming house that caught fire and the one located next door have been deemed unfit for human habitation, but MacInnis says he has seen some homes that are in even worse condition.
Arsenault says older houses are often renovated without proper permits to house large groups for low rent, which is illegal.
“Very often it takes incidents like this, fires that occur, for us to discover these operations,” he says.
Outreach groups across the city are now calling on the municipal and provincial government to ensure the rooming houses are closely regulated, licensed and inspected for fire, health and property standards.
MacInnis and one former tenant, who asked to be identified as “Ray,” agree something needs to be done to improve living conditions for tenants.
“The conditions in the rooming houses are poor and the government officials should step up and say ‘Hey, we’re not going to tolerate this. People have a right to a decent home to live in,’” says “Ray.”
“One of the solutions that could help would be grants for some of these landlords to update these houses, especially with fire alarms,” suggests MacInnis.
The provincial government does offer an assistance program that can help landlords with renovations in the form of loans, but city officials say money hasn’t been spent on the rooming house in question for quite some time.
Both MacInnis and Surette say they have tried to locate the landlord of the property, but their attempts have been unsuccessful.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Cami Kepke