Skip to content

More cases cited of poor conditions in Sask. Housing units

Daily Leg Update: NDP raises case of single mother Shannon Kay, whose unit has mould and sewage backup issues
Opposition Critic Meara Conway and Shannon Kay speak of Kay’s issues with her Sask Housing unit in Saskatoon.

REGINA - On the final legislature day before the Easter break last Thursday, the Opposition NDP were once again on the attack over the living conditions for a single mom at a Saskatchewan Housing unit in the province.

This time, both NDP Leader Carla Beck and Social Services Critic Meara Conway raised the case of Shannon Kay and her son River, who were at the legislature Thursday. 

Beck raised concerns that their Sask Housing unit in Saskatoon was “riddled with mould and has sewage in the basement, and it’s making River sick,” she said in Question Period.

In speaking to reporters at the Legislature, Kay said that the sewage backup was “an issue before we even moved there.”

“The last sewage was really, really bad, this last one that we had,” said Kay of the situation last fall. “I've noticed that this is the one that has created a lot of sickness within my children, especially my youngest getting severe allergic reactions due to the mould, with constant red eyes and getting skin rashes on himself, and it’s causing him to be very self-conscious about himself because he doesn’t like because he’s always had clear skin.”

Kay added that three weeks ago they found mould underneath the stairs and “it’s a lot,” she said.

“I refuse to let them just come in and cut it out with my son in the house, just because he has already severe allergic reactions due to the mould.” Kay expressed her concern the mould would become airborne and make her son's health situation worse,

“I want to move,” Kay said.

In their answers in Question Period, both Premier Scott Moe and Minister of Social Services Gene Makowsky agreed this was not acceptable and Makowsky offered to meet with Kay afterwards.

During Question Period, Conway grilled Makowsky, saying she had “sent him a letter detailing the horrors that this family’s had to endure — black mould in their home, shoddy repairs that don’t fix the underlying problems, sewer backups that destroy property and leave their home stinking of urine and feces.”

She accused the minister of not even replying. “I didn’t even get a response from the minister, Mr. Speaker.” 

In speaking to reporters, Conway further accused Makowsky of acting like “he was not made aware of the situation.”

“When I heard from Shannon at the health issues that her children were having, I immediately actually went in person to her apartment in Saskatoon and I toured around. I asked for the doctor’s notes, I asked for the inspection reports. I saw the black mould myself. I met with River, I saw his health conditions, and then I immediately wrote to the Minister of Social Services two weeks ago. I actually got a response by email from his staff saying ‘we brought this to the ministers’ attention, we have it,’ because there was an issue with the consent form so I was asked to resend the consent form and I did. So to suggest that the minister wasn’t aware of this, that’s simply not the case. No action was taken. And I’ve since also learned that Shannon independently reached out to the Minister‘s office about her situation.”

Speaking to reporters following Question Period, Makowsky had a somewhat different view.

“The office did get the communication late one day, the next morning an update was provided to the member that brought this up in the House. So in terms of what she’s alluding to, I would say it’s not quite accurate. Does every case come to me? No, we get a lot of case work and some is elevated to my attention. This wasn’t, as it was actively being worked on by the Saskatoon Housing Authority. So, this case was being looked at in real time. Several things were being worked on in that unit, as well as including the willingness to and attempts to fix the drywall mould situation.”

In terms of this case, Makowsky said there was a response from Saskatoon Housing Authority including replacement of faucets and valves in the plumbing, and he said the local Housing Authority was “wanting to fix” the drywall mould situation as well.

“It’s not like it’s being ignored or nobody cares about it or letting it go into disrepair. No, there’s been work done in this particular unit.”

Conway pointed to broader problems in speaking to reporters. “It’s very damning. Shannon is one of thousands,” she said.

“These are long-standing issues in vacant units as well as units that are currently being used as housing for people due to a decade or more of neglect by the Sask Party government. We’ve crunched the numbers, we’ve looked at the Sask Housing annual reports, we’ve compiled those numbers… this is a 40 per cent reduction in renovations and maintenance budget over time as a result of the province consistently cutting their provincial contribution to Sask Housing year over year. The cuts have been absolutely dramatic… this election year announcement of $9 million going into fixing up vacant units is just too little too late and it doesn’t even begin to address the depths of the problem.“

For his part, Makowsky pledged to look into this case and meet with the family. He also said that “in a general sense, local housing authorities, I think, in large part take these matters very seriously, and when they are reported they look to remediate it as soon as possible. I believe that happened in this case.”