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Horizon View residents concerned in aftermath of flooding, damage to building

Update to the story: Since our stories were published, residents have informed us of positive work being done at the Horizon View, specifically in the handling of some of their concerns.

Horizon has confirmed these with us, plus they said they have a dedicated team working with the residents to resolve other problems that may arise. A full-time project manager has been hired to oversee the repair work that’s being done at the location.

Horizon Housing distributed a notice to residents Wednesday, informing them repairs will be underway and to expect to see contractors in the Horizon View building in the coming weeks.

The notice comes after a series of burst pipes and unit flooding in the Horizon View affordable housing complex earlier this month. It happened while the temperatures had plunged in Calgary to around -30C.

The building was first opened last June. Another one in the complex opened in 2018.

(Editor’s note: In the original piece the resident had provided her identity. We have since learned she was a victim of domestic violence and her name has been removed.)

One resident and her children were displaced by the flooding and water damage between Feb. 3 and 21. She spent nearly three weeks in a hotel.

She said her apartment was flooded due to a burst pipe within the building on Feb. 3. She received an email from Horizon Housing on Feb. 16, informing her that she would continue to be displaced until further notice.

“They’re uncertain of when we can relocate back home,” she said at the time.

“How can you tell a woman [who’s] on the go, with her children, on low income, that you have no idea when she’s going to be able to come home,” she said.

Many of their belongings were damaged by the flooding.

She said her children’s bed were damaged, many of their toys, electronics and their clothes.

The resident and her children were finally able to relocate back to her apartment on Monday, after receiving an email notifying her that the unit was ready.

The family arrived to find the door to their unit unlocked, and much of the water hadn’t been fully cleaned up, the woman said.

Damaged claimed through insurance

Images from inside the Horizon View building. JOHN WATSON FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Arianne Brady, director of stakeholder relations for Horizon Housing, said the company is responsible for unit repairs. Residents should submit a claim to their insurance for damaged personal property. A deductible may be applicable to the claim.

“We are working with residents on a case-by-case basis to understand what the impacts of that deductible would be,” said Brady.

She explained insurance coverage will be assessed on a case-by-case basis based on the damage to individual units.

Brady added Horizon Housing has determined much of the damage present around the building is related to burst pipes. They said this is a result of tenants leaving their windows open.

“We spent the weekend going through each and every single unit to be able to understand the extent of damages,” Brady said.

“If [residents] were not responsible for the burst pipe, for example leaving their window open, we want to work with them to cover the costs of that deductible.”

Brady confirmed 50 units had been affected by water, though specified 20 units required “wiping up.” One unit required drywall to be removed and replaced, one unit is currently under assessment for the scope of the damage, and 28 units require “minor repairs.”

The number of burst pipes was confirmed at 12, Brady said.

Some common area hallways have also been affected. The damage was apparent: water stains, pooling, edging, and some ceilings needing replacement.

Inability to pay deductible

Resident Betty Cassidy said many of the building’s residents are concerned they won’t be able to pay the $500 deductible required to claim their insurance.

“None of these people can claim their insurance because they don’t have the deductible. We don’t feel that we should be using our insurance because technically this is not our problem,” she said.

A GoFundMe campaign with the goal of raising money to help Horizon View residents is active with the goal of being able to help pay for insurance deductibles.

Cassidy said in the time she’s lived in the building she’s never seen issues of this scale.

“They’re trying to blame us for the windows being open. This is my third winter here and it’s the first time I’ve had to turn on my heat because the building is already so naturally hot.

“They keep blaming us for the windows, but the last six [floods] that I’ve [responded] to, the windows have been closed.”

Resident Sahrah Pock said her unit regularly reaches between 27 and 30 Celsius. Pock feels it’s become a hazard for her.

“It’s so hot, I can’t handle the heat when it’s 30 degrees in my apartment. I have to open the windows,” she said.

A portion of the letter to Horizon residents outlining heat and window guidelines. SUPPLIED

Horizon’s note to residents this week addressed the heat issue, among others.

The note said if the temperature is too hot or too cold, adjust the temperature by two degrees and wait 30 minute for it to take effect.

If residents are concerned about the temperatures, they can submit a maintenance request, the note read.

Hesitant to approach staff, residents said

Resident Colin Agnew said he’s uncomfortable approaching Horizon Housing staff.

“The staff, I find, [are] unapproachable… I suffer from depression, I have cerebral palsy, I really felt suicidal and the staff just said [to] phone the crisis line,” Agnew said.

He claimed that when he was moved into his apartment roughly four months ago, he was left to his own devices simply with a mattress on the floor of his unit.

Cassidy added she feels very similarly about talking to staff.

“Nobody ever wants to go down and complain because they’re afraid of what the repercussions might be,” she said.

That was also addressed in the letter to residents.

Brady said Horizon wishes to ensure the safety and comfort of residents. She added additional staff were brought to the building last weekend, and on Tuesday as part of this commitment.

“We really want to work with people and ensure their voices are heard. That is why we have extra staff present to be able to understand and fully document the issues,” she said.

“Part of our assessment over the weekend was just to understand if there are common concerns that aren’t related to windows, [and] whether or not they actually exist.”

Brady added the safety and comfort of residents is Horizon’s number one priority, including feeling safe and comfortable bringing concerns forward.

Residents who have any complaints are being asked to fill out a complaint or grievance form with Resident services.

Horizon has noted specifically any complaints will not affect a resident’s tenancy.