New air-conditioner policy leaves Moncton family on the verge of homelessness

·3 min read
Shawna Stiles hopes the Department of Social Development will allow her to continue living in her home with window air conditioners, but she fears she may become homeless by the end of this month.  (Maeve McFadden/CBC - image credit)
Shawna Stiles hopes the Department of Social Development will allow her to continue living in her home with window air conditioners, but she fears she may become homeless by the end of this month. (Maeve McFadden/CBC - image credit)

A Moncton woman is worried a new NB Housing air-conditioner policy will leave her family homeless by the end of the month.

Just last year, an NB Housing maintenance worker manually installed two window units in Shawna Stiles's four-plex home — one in her kitchen window and the other in the master bedroom.

Because of concerns about safety and damage, a new air-conditioner policy came into effect on May 1 that requires all tenants in provincially owned buildings to use only floor-model, window-exhaust air conditioners.

Stiles said she has to choose between removing her existing window air conditioner without a replacement, getting a new air-conditioning system that she can't afford, or becoming homeless.

Going without air conditioning is not an option for her for health reasons.

Maeve McFadden/CBC
Maeve McFadden/CBC

She said tenants were told by NB Housing that leaving doors and windows open is prohibited because snow and rain could get into a unit and cause damage.

Stiles, who typically uses two puffers each day to manage her asthma, is worried she'll end up in hospital if her house gets too hot.

"It's not like I'm trying to be difficult — to me, it's a necessity," she said. "These units get extremely, extremely hot, and with the recent heatwave we had just even last week, I had a very hard time breathing. … Even with health issues, they still will not allow me to keep a window air-conditioning unit."

Mid-range portable, floor-model systems often go for $500, and about $300 used, Stiles said. To buy two at a time and remove her existing AC system would jeopardize her ability to pay bills and her ability to breathe in case it gets too hot.

The Department of Social Development says tenants were advised by letter in April about the new policy.

Stiles said a tenant relations officer delivered her a new letter on June 10 that let her know of the policy, but it mentioned no deadline changing her existing air-conditioning unit or risk getting evicted.

On June 28, Stiles was served a notice to leave the premises by the end of July for failing to comply with the new policy.

She said she has been trying to arrange new accommodations with the department with little success.

"I've been trying to work with the supervisors in that department, and they're saying that there is no alternative and nothing to work with there, and that I just need to comply."

'Some exceptions' possible

The Department of Social Development says eviction is a last resort, and some exceptions to the air-condition policy policy can be made.

"Some exceptions may be made for window air conditioners, which would primarily be approved for seniors units, and installed by our maintenance teams," spokesperson Jeremy Trevors wrote to the CBC.

"Window units are typically only approved when it's not possible to use a floor unit."

Stiles has been looking for another place to live, but with soaring rents in Moncton and throughout the province, she has little hope she can find proper housing for her and her son.

"I have actually started looking just as a precaution, and the amount of income that I have coming in right now doesn't even compare to the rent prices that are in this city alone.

"You can't find a bachelor apartment that's under $1,000 a month — I can't even get $1,000 a month. I have nowhere else to go."

Stiles is hopeful some arrangements can be made with NB Housing.

"I know currently right now there's thousands of people who are on a waiting list for a housing unit and that's just in the Moncton area alone," she said.

"There needs to be some changes done. There's gonna be more homeless [people] because of this, and I'm gonna be one of them."

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