Occupied for less than a year, the Qualicum Park Village affordable housing project is facing mould issues and the society that manages the complex says it is trying to fix the problem.
Resident Diana LaMonte said she thought her unit was going to be her forever home. Back in November of last year, LaMonte said she began noticing mould throughout her home.
“It’s just been a nightmare. I thought this was my forever home,” LaMonte said. “My health is more important than a brand new home.”
The 34-unit complex was completed in April of last year, and development consultant Walter Hoogland said residents started moving in around July.
Hoogland said the first complaints of mould come in November, which was when LaMonte said she started noticing mould in multiple locations in her home.
Hoogland said the society addressed the issues right away and has been keeping an eye on the problem.
“At that time, I believe we even sent a note to all the residents and said that we’re encouraging them to use the fans in the washrooms and even hood fans at that time,” said Hoogland. “I think property managers sent out a note to them all.”
Then in March of this year, LaMonte said she noticed mould in the front closet where her washing machine and dryer are located. At first, LaMonte thought the washing machine had been leaking, but after inspecting it, she said she noticed that the floor was dry around the machine.
LaMonte said along the wall was black mould and there was an outline of mould around her ironing board.
“One of my concerns is seeing that mould in that cupboard on the surface, what’s behind that drywall? It gives me pause,” she said.
LaMonte said she’s been in contact with the property managers, but she said they keep telling her they “know about it and (they’re) looking into it.”
In a letter addressed to the residents from the property managers, a copy of which obtained by The NEWS, managers Keith and Laurie Nickerson said that they had been told by tenants about high condensation and moisture problems in the units.
“We have had the builder investigate this problem, and they have determined that the issue is not caused by the manner of construction, but rather the building code requirement for these homes,” the letter stated.
The Nov. 13, 2015 letter went on to say that because of the use of thermal windows and the wall vapour barrier being caulked to the windows to minimize any air infiltration, the units are “airtight.”
The letter also suggested a list of remedies for the residents to control the humidity inside their homes such as “ALWAYS run your bathroom fan when showering or bathing; ALWAYS run your hood fan when boiling and cooking foods; ALWAYS run both when using your washer/dryer; and purchase a dehumidifier for use during the colder months when moisture is highest.”
LaMonte said she priced out dehumidifiers. “They’re over $200. I can’t afford that. I’m a disabled senior,” she said.
Hoogland said dehumidifiers were put into some of the two-bedroom units to try and fix the problem because the two bedroom units were found to have more problems with humidity.
“You get two or three people inside a room, you’re creating humidity and heat which causes problems,” Hoogland said. He added that humidistats were put into all 34 units.
Kiwanis past-president Pat Weber said that there were also noise complaints with the dehumidifiers, as well as issues with draining since the dehumidifier will shut off when it reaches a certain level.
“If they’re working, the dehumidifier keeps working while they’re gone and as soon as the water reaches a level, then the dehumidifier shuts off,” Weber said. “So they may not come home for four or five hours after it shut off to drain it.”
Kiwanis vice-president Renate Sutherland said some of the fixes haven’t always been great for the tenants.
“We also have to be really sensitive to our tenants and not create some unrealistic expectations on their side either,” Sutherland said. But she added that only four or five tenants have come forward to say they have an issue with the mould.
Since that first letter, LaMonte said she’s continued calling the property managers since she first noticed the mould last fall.
“But it’s useless, I get the same response every time,” LaMonte said.
Hoogland said in early April of this year, members went from unit to unit and gave residents the opportunity to write in with any “deficiencies” which would include the issues with mould.
“Every resident has been given ample opportunities, and we also supported the residents with other information on what they can do, or to call and things like that. We’re on top of it,” Hoogland said.
The most recent letter from the property managers to the residents regarding the mould was dated April 8.
“We note that a lot of you have concerns with mould in your units. The builder and society are very much aware of this problem and are working diligently on a permanent solution,” the letter said. “In the meantime, to help keep the mould from multiplying in your unit, please wipe off any mould you see with Mr. Clean or bleach as soon as possible.”
LaMonte said she had someone clean out the mould, but she doesn’t want to live in the townhouse for one more winter.
“It’s been terrible,” she said. “I have to move.”
Kiwanis president Michelle Genereux said no residents have come forward so far to say the mould has been affecting their health, but she said there may have been concerns of the possibility of health issues.
As for the mould problem, society members said they are working on the problems, but Sutherland said it’s a bit of a balancing act.
“We’ve already put in a significant amount of money into trying to fix it,” said Sutherland. “We’re looking to even put in a much larger amount of money into it. Again, we’re a non-profit. We’re all volunteers here that have been working really hard to create safe, affordable housing for people in the community and we can assure you we’re doing our best to continue to do that.”
The Town of Qualicum Beach contributed $374,380 in various waived fees and $250,000 in matching fundraising contributions.
Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek said that he has heard of the mould problems in the units, and said his understanding is the society is working on the problems.
Work on the Qualicum Park Village started a few years ago when the Qualicum-Parksville Kiwanis Housing Society donated the land from the previous Kiwanis Village housing. The society, which manages the one-year-old townhouse complex, also provided $268,000 in equity and contributions.
B.C. Housing’s website said the provincial government arranged about $3.6 million in construction financing for the project and the Regional District of Nanaimo waived $62,000 in development fees.
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