After 14 years of frustration, Eileen Bourgeois says enough is enough.
That’s not only how long Bourgeois has been living in a Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corp. apartment on Farmdale Road in Corner Brook. It’s also how long she’s been fighting to make improvements to her living conditions.
Her biggest issue is that the basement of her unit, and the others like it in the neigbourhood, is not insulated.
She claims the corporation refuses to do the work.
“They told me it’s not a living space, so it’s not in the budget and they’re not going to insulate it,” she said. “They said, if they did it for me, they’d have to do it for everyone. They should do it for everyone.”
Bourgeois begs to differ that it’s not a living space. She has two furnished bedrooms in one half of the basement. The other half, where her hot water tank, laundry appliances and storage are located, is set up as a rec room with a couch and television.
“They told me they’d insulate this wall here,” she said, pointing to an interior wall that halves the entire basement. “I told them they’re dense.”
As the perimeter walls are not insulated, Bourgeois refuses to turn the heat on down there because it is lost too easily through the walls.
“It’s to the point where I can’t heat it anymore because it’s a $400 light bill for heat that’s going outside to melt the snow,” she said.
Bourgeois is not alone with this complaint. Her neighbour Sharon Hobin won’t turn on the heat in her basement section either.
They noted that the snow around the perimeter of these apartments melts away because of the heat loss.
They said others living in the neighbourhood share this frustration. Earlier this year, around 150 Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corp. tenants from Farmdale Road and the neighbouring streets of Hendon Drive and Green Garden Road signed a petition urging the corporation to address this issue.
Bourgeois and Hobin, who have also brought their complaints to the attention of their legislature member, Gerry Byrne, said they’ve been told repeatedly by the corporation that insulating the basements of these apartment units is simply not in the budget.
“You can’t get nothing done. Every time you call them, it’s like it is money coming out of their own pockets. You feel like a burden when you call them,” said Hobin, who recently had to deal with a sewer water backup in her basement.
Paul Abbott, Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corp.’s executive director for regional operations and program delivery, said insulating basements is on the corporation’s radar but not yet in its financial plan for the near future.
Abbott said the hosing corporation has been concentrating on improving the energy efficiency of its housing network by modernizing the exteriors of its buildings first. This work has included installing new energy-efficient siding, windows doors and roofs, including perimeter and attic and insulation.
In the last year, around $450,000 has been spent on such things in the Farmdale Road, Hendon Drive and Green Garden Road area of Corner Brook.
In 2017-18, said Abbott, the corporation spent $12.5 million upgrading the exteriors of 850 of the roughly 5,900 units it owns and operates across the province.
He said the exterior work is necessary to maintain the structural integrity of the homes.
While aware that insulating basements is also a need, Abbott said the next round of funding will actually be spent on upgrading kitchens and bathrooms across the province.
He said the kitchens and bathrooms in some units are four or five decades old.
When basement insulation will get done is a matter of when the funding becomes available, said Abbott. He said the corporation always has a plan stretching out five years and insulating basements could be worked into it if the money is made available.
Abbott refuted the allegation that the corporation considers basements containing bedrooms as not being living spaces.
“If we receive funding, we can do more work and we can focus on the basements, especially if we have all the exteriors completed,” he said.
Bourgeois said she has had perfectly good stoves, doors and bathtubs replaced through the years and questions why those resources couldn’t have been better spent on the real issue she has with her home.