Residents of Montreal social housing complex cry foul after weeks of intermittent heat

Vinny Patel said she has been boiling water to bathe, but she's worried about scalding her mother. 'It's been hard,' she says, and there's always a problem with the building. (Rowan Kennedy/CBC - image credit)
Vinny Patel said she has been boiling water to bathe, but she's worried about scalding her mother. 'It's been hard,' she says, and there's always a problem with the building. (Rowan Kennedy/CBC - image credit)

Vinny Patel used space heaters to keep her 75-year-old mother warm this week but showering was a challenge.

"Even though I heat up water, I'm scared to burn her," she said.

Patel lives in a social housing complex in the Côte-des-Neiges neighbourhood that was without heating or hot water for three days this week, as southern Quebec temperatures dipped well below freezing and the first snow of the season fell.

And while the hot water and heating were back by Friday afternoon, Patel said the cold is not the only recurring problem at 7777 Mountain Sights Avenue.

Last month, her mother got an infection, which led to a trip to the hospital and Patel blames the building, which is adding yet more stress to her daily life as she tries to work and care for her mom.

"The other day I almost lost my mom because of this. And I'm trying my best," Patel said, holding back tears.

"I don't know what to do. I'm asking for help."

Rowan Kennedy/CBC
Rowan Kennedy/CBC

Another resident, whom CBC agreed not to name because he fears reprisals, said he has been heating water on the stove because water from the tap is freezing cold. He said the situation is unacceptable.

Jeyabaln Ramakrishnan, who lives in the building with his wife and kids, said he knows his building manager's phone number by heart because he calls all the time to report issues.

"Today I called two times," he said. "Nobody answered."

He said he's been going to his sister's place to shower. His kids haven't been able to shower in the morning. For now, he's hoping to find a new place to live, "but I don't know."

Rowan Kennedy/CBC
Rowan Kennedy/CBC

The building is managed by the Société d'habitation et de développement de Montréal (SHDM), a non-profit, para-municipal corporation that describes itself as financially independent and operating without subsidies or funding from the city.

A spokesperson for the SHDM, Julien Serra, said nobody is available for an interview, but he did provide an emailed statement.

On Oct. 26, tenants notified the SHDM of the hot water and heating problems, so a plumbing company was hired and solved the problem, Serra said.

Since Nov. 15, the intermittent breakdowns of the building's boiler have affected the distribution of hot water and heat, Serra said.

Plumbers were called in on Nov. 16 and 17 to work on the boiler and were still working on the issue Friday afternoon, he said.

Experts will look into the issue and a report is expected to clarify what is causing the intermittent failures, Serra said.

Rowan Kennedy/CBC
Rowan Kennedy/CBC

"If more extensive work is recommended to improve the boiler operation's stability, the SHDM will carry it out as a priority," he said on Friday.

"A notice will be distributed to tenants this afternoon to keep them informed of the situation and our emergency service remains available outside office opening hours."

The SHDM teams are doing everything they can to remedy the situation as soon as possible and in a sustainable manner and will take the necessary measures following the conclusions of the expert report, he said.