Mold plagues suburban subsidized BC Housing units awaiting likely redevelopment

Delta Optimist

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Several tenants — many of them children — of a subsidized housing complex in Ladner are living in mold-infested units as they await word on the fate of their homes, which could be redeveloped by BC Housing.

Built in 1988, Ladner Willows is a 40-unit complex on Ladner Trunk Road that has fallen into disrepair. Tenants, such as Tania Tisdale, a mother of four, claim BC Housing has, for years, failed to fund repairs of the complex, which its non-profit operator/landlord Red Door Housing Society claims is a leaky condo.

Tania Tisdale and her partner Dale hold their two children surrounded by their neighbours at Ladner Willows. Tisdale has been fighting mold in her unit for five years. Photo by Graeme Wood

The government agency and society are now claiming the mold will be fixed immediately.

“Everything was fine when we moved in” five and a half years ago, said Tisdale.

Although, “when I did my walk-in inspection there was mold in the windows. The landlord told me that was from the previous tenant not keeping things clean. She said it was our job to keep them clean, and that they’d have condensation; that’s just normal behaviour, she said. But over five years it’s gotten steadily worse.”

The Optimist observed three mold-infested units, including Tisdale’s, where walls, ceilings and window sills were laden with black mold. It understands 16 of the units are vacant, and several of them have mold issues.

“There are approximately 16 vacant units in the complex which are not safe to tenant and will remain vacant until the complex is redeveloped,” BC Housing said in an email.

Tisdale claims that after she moved into Ladner Willows, her toddler, now four, developed asthma.

“The mold has gotten out of control in her room. It’s growing up the wall behind her bed; it’s growing up the wall in her closet.

“She sleeps in there, I don’t have anywhere else to go,” said Tisdale.

Long-time tenants, such as Elizabeth Zbitnoff and Paula Pybus, say the complex was fine until about eight years ago; then repairs and maintenance stopped. Mold became widespread thereafter, said Zbitnoff.

What’s more, Pybus and one other tenant are facing eviction for late payments of rent. BC Housing, via a letter, is claiming the tenants failed to comply with the Residential Tenancy Act.

Zbitnoff considers this hypocritical given the City of Delta noted in a recent inspection report that BC Housing and Red Door have themselves violated the act for “deficiencies” that do not comply with health, safety and housing standards.

BC Housing spokesperson Laura Matthews told the Optimist “the health and safety of tenants is our first priority.”

Matthews explained, via email, the complex “requires significant repairs to the building envelope, windows and the building’s piping systems, which would be very costly.

“BC Housing has not undertaken the major repairs because this project is slated for redevelopment. Red Door Housing Society has submitted a redevelopment proposal to BC Housing, which is currently under review.”

Red Door’s executive director Susan Snell said Ladner Willows is part of the leaky condo crisis of the early 1990s.

This August was the first time a mold remediation expert came in and inspected units, according to tenants.

Snell said “we’ve done all sorts of mold remediation” in the past, but funds are limited.

“We’ve been asking for money to do the work for 15 years,” said Snell, adding Red Door’s budget hasn’t increased in that time.

Snell said she understands there is now money to fix the occupied moldy units. She said she’s in the midst of hiring a contractor.