Miramichi tenants get 4 hours' notice to leave apartments deemed unsafe

About 60 Miramichi residents were left homeless Wednesday afternoon because the building they were living in was deemed unsafe by the Fire Marshal's Office.

Steve MacDonald, one of the tenants at 15 Cole Cres., said they were told around 11 a.m. Wednesday that the building was not up to code.

Tenants had until 3 p.m. to pack up their possessions.

"Nobody really seems to have any idea what's going to happen," MacDonald said.

Steve MacDonald/Facebook

The three-storey building contains 19 apartments and 23 hostel-style rooms.

Fire investigators acting on a complaint found exposed electrical wires, a violation that increases the risk of a fire spreading rapidly, according to a news release from the Red Cross. 

CBC News asked for an interview with the fire marshal, but the request was denied because an investigation is underway.

About 40 tenants have arranged to stay with family or friends. Twenty tenants registered to spend Wednesday night in a temporary shelter set up by the Red Cross at the Golden Hawk Gym on Pollard Boulevard, but only seven ended up staying the night there. 

Elizabeth Hendrick, emergency management co-ordinator for the Red Cross in central New Brunswick, said 31 individuals have registered with the organization.

She said the Red Cross doesn't have a timeline for how long the temporary shelter will be open for the tenants, although it will remain available Thursday night.

No date for return

Residents haven't been given a date for when they can return home, although the landlord hopes to complete the renovations required within a few weeks, says a news release from the Red Cross.

Tenants can return over the next few days to collect the rest of their belongings.

Brian Gosseth, the owner of the building, said the wires had been exposed for two years, as the building was undergoing renovations.

"How can you do construction and not open stuff up so you can get stuff done?" he asked.

He said 10 to 15 of the people who live in his building are on social assistance, so having to leave the building is inconvenient.

"The housing situation in Miramichi is pretty tight and some of the tenants in this building are on a limited budget," he said.

MacDonald, a recovering drug addict who's been clean for two years, said he hasn't really had a place to stay since he was 12. He's not sure what he's going to do now. 

"I worked my ass off to get here and to finally get into an apartment like I have … And I just bought myself a nice big TV and my son comes every second weekend. I put my life back together just to be put right back on the streets where I came from."

'An alarm bell'

Miramichi Mayor Adam Lordon said the city has been examining its policies and "looking at potential incentives to try to generate housing development."

There's already an urgent need for affordable housing in the community, he said.

"We're hoping that with some of the policy adjustments we're making and with the new federal and provincial housing plans and some of the financial incentives in those plans that finally the private development and industry sector will pay attention," Lordon said.

"We're hoping that this is an alarm bell."