Tenants of new Miramichi building frustrated by cracking walls, power outages

A photo from fall 2023 shows the 20-unit building. Over half of the units are subsidized. Two tenants say they have encountered multiple issues since moving in. (Submitted by Breakwater Consulting Ltd. - image credit)
A photo from fall 2023 shows the 20-unit building. Over half of the units are subsidized. Two tenants say they have encountered multiple issues since moving in. (Submitted by Breakwater Consulting Ltd. - image credit)

Tenants living in a new affordable-housing building in Miramichi, N.B., say they are frustrated with walls cracking, electrical and snow-clearing problems, and how those issues have been addressed.

Melonie Rutland moved into 2108 Water St. after she was offered a unit in the building in November through the local women's shelter.

"I was promised happiness and to treat it like it would be my own home," she said.

The 20-unit building has over half of its units designated for rent supplements aimed at women and children facing domestic violence, and youth at risk of homelessness. The project finished up in the fall and opened to tenants last November.

The supplemented units were to be considered third-stage housing, meaning tenants could stay long term.

Rutland said she started experiencing issues in December when she noticed cracks forming on the walls and ceiling.

Rutland took several photos of cracks in the hallways of the third floor and in the second floor stairwell. The company that owns the building says the cracks did not compromise the structural integrity of the building.
Rutland took several photos of cracks in the hallways of the third floor and in the second floor stairwell. The company that owns the building says the cracks did not compromise the structural integrity of the building.

Rutland took several photos of cracks in the hallways of the third floor and in the second floor stairwell. The company that owns the building says the cracks did not compromise the structural integrity of the building. (Submitted by Melonie Rutland)

In an interview, Blair Martin, the president of Belleterre Community Partners, which owns the building, said the cracks occurred when the roof trusses moved during the winter freeze-and-thaw cycles.

He said work to repair the cracks couldn't be done in the winter and the work could wait since the issue didn't affect the structural integrity of the building.

Belleterre is working on a second building on the same street that will also have supplemented units, and he said the trusses have been redesigned to make sure the cracks don't happen with that project.

"These are problems that happen in all buildings, all new buildings, new homes, new apartments," he said. "It's just the way things are in the construction business, and you expect them to happen."

Shannon Camilleri, who lives in a subsidized accessible unit, said her issues also began in December when she voiced her concern about ice in the driveway. As an amputee who is currently using crutches, she said she contacted the property manager about the problem but didn't get anywhere.

Martin said the company subcontracts the clearing of the parking lot and they usually won't come until the snow is finished falling. The subcontractors don't prioritize what building they go to first after a snow event, he added.

Extended power outages

Rutland and Camilleri also said a power outage over a month ago left them without power for days.

Rutland said her food spoiled during that period, and there have since been more outages. She said the first gift card for food came a few weeks after the outage.

Belleterre Community Partners president Blair Martin said electricians have been in the building trying to troubleshoot the issues with the electricity.
Belleterre Community Partners president Blair Martin said electricians have been in the building trying to troubleshoot the issues with the electricity.

Belleterre Community Partners president Blair Martin said workers have been in the building trying to troubleshoot the electrical issues. (Submitted by Blair Martin)

Martin said electricians replaced the main breaker in the building after a subsequent outage five days ago. But after another outage on Wednesday night, he said electricians believed the issue was related to the N.B. Power line spiking and tripping the breaker.

Rutland said Belleterre Community Partners offered food gift cards to tenants after the outages, but she called it a "Band Aid solution" and said that some of the food tenants purchased the other day would have gone bad during the second outage of the week.

Martin said N.B. Power was on site on Thursday to look at the issue but he understands why tenants are frustrated.

"Water is easy. You can see water dripping and fix that problem," he said. "Electrical, it's a lot more complicated in trying to figure out why something isn't operating properly.

Shannon Camilleri, seen speaking at a Coldest Night of the Year event, said she wanted to speak out about her experience in her current building for other tenants who might be going through similar problems.
Shannon Camilleri, seen speaking at a Coldest Night of the Year event, said she wanted to speak out about her experience in her current building for other tenants who might be going through similar problems.

Shannon Camilleri, seen speaking at a Coldest Night of the Year event, says she wants to speak out about her experiences in the building because other tenants might be going through similar problems. (Submitted by Shannon Camilleri)

"I understand the frustration, I accept the frustration … but there has to be an allowance somewhere from everyone involved to say, 'look, this doesn't happen overnight in terms of solving the problem, and we're trying to deal with the frustration.'"

Martin also said that even though Belleterre is a non-profit that builds affordable housing, they are also landlords. He called the situation a "typical tenant-landlord relationship."

CBC News requested an interview with Housing Minister Jill Green, but a spokesperson said she wasn't available. In an emailed statement, the spokesperson said "any tenant experiencing issues with the health and safety of their housing are encouraged to contact the Tenant and Landlord Relations Office directly to discuss their options."

Patricia Michaud, the executive director of the Miramichi Transition House, which recommended tenants for the units designated for families facing domestic violence, said she has heard from an outreach worker about the issues tenants are facing.

Although she said she isn't involved with the maintenance or ownership of the building, the organization has tried to help with grocery cards.

"It's a really hard situation because I don't want to lose those units, but I don't want to see tenants suffering … and having a hard time with not having electricity and so on," she said.

Mat Rouleau, the building's property manager, said he would be talking to tenants, and that he tries to be clear with them about whether fixing an issue is within his control.

"I'm going to take the time to listen and make sure that we, as much as we can, sort of do the work we need to do to … not just resolve this issue, but make sure that we let them know that we're taking it seriously," he said.