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News - All - 16 Sep 2019

News Item 51 of 4671 

Miscellaneous: 16 Sep 2019
‘I’m just so sick of this whole housing situation’

Sylvia Skoruch is a University of Waterloo student who says she was forced out of her lease when the building owner claimed to need to do renovations on her unit. She later learned the unit was rented to someone else. - Mathew McCarthy,Waterloo Region Record

WATERLOO — The University of Waterloo's undergraduate student association voted to create a subcommittee to investigate the "student housing crisis" and look into a class-action lawsuit against negligent landlords and property companies offering substandard housing.

Fourth-year UW student Sylvia Skoruch attended the student union meeting Sunday to tell the association how she was left without housing just days before school started.

The 21-year-old French major is commuting from her Mississauga home, leaving her house at 5:45 a.m. to attend an 8:30 a.m. class.

She had a lease signed and was ready to move into a penthouse apartment when she was called by the property company who told her the unit was no longer available due to safety reasons.

"They forced me to cancel my lease," she told the association meeting. She later found out the apartment was renovated and someone else is living there.

"I'm just so sick of this whole housing situation," said Skoruch in an interview after the meeting.

"All I want is a comfy room to live in and receive my education," she said. "Is that too much to ask for?"

Skoruch took her beef to Facebook, creating a page describing housing troubles. She has been inundated with similar stories from other students who say they are sleeping in the student life centre, others in cars and taking showers in public washrooms.

Skoruch's story comes at the same time as student hackers scraped more than 6,000 maintenance requests and leaked them to Reddit last week, pointing to alleged poor housing conditions.

Issues included mould, plumbing and heating problems, vermin, and malfunctioning smoke or carbon monoxide detectors.

The maintenance requests came from eight buildings where most of the tenants are university students.

The hackers, who said they redacted personal sensitive data, claimed many of the complaints took weeks or even months to resolve.

Accommod8u confirmed the data leak to the Record. Waterloo Regional Police are investigating.

Seneca Velling, vice-president of operations and finance for the student union, said he in no way condones a data breach or hackers giving out private data but the leaked information revealed "some very poignant truths."

"The students feel powerless," he said in an interview. "These are persistent issues that go unaddressed."

Velling said students often don't know where to turn when facing unsafe living conditions.

The union can offer legal advice to students trying to cope with substandard housing, he said.

"It (housing complaints) resonates with what we have been hearing for five to 10 years," Velling said.

Union member Jason Small said it's "despicable" that lingering housing issues continue to plague students.

"We should be doing more to raise the issue so it can be resolved," he said.

Skoruch said she would like to see temporary emergency housing for students who need a place to stay.

Council member Tristan Fassel said the housing crisis is a systemic issue across the region.

Fassel, a second-year social work student at Renison University College, suggested students, who account for a large population in the area, should voice their concerns about landlord negligence.

We need to "use our people power to firmly put pressure to get the conditions we need to live in," he said.

Twitter: @MonteiroRecord

Twitter: @MonteiroRecord

by Liz Monteiro Waterloo Region Record/AA

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