A group of seniors who live at Prairie Place in Regina are fighting back after Regina Housing Authority imposed a ban on any used furniture coming into the building.
This week, the Regina Housing Authority sent a letter to residents saying they are not allowed to bring in used items from thrift stores, garage sales, estate sales or even gifts from family due to the risk of infestations. The apartment building has dealt with several infestations of bed bugs as recently as this week.
“When this letter was posted, a lot of people took offense to it because they felt it was an invasion of their right to shop where they wanted to,” explained resident Jan Stith-Wallace.
She helped circulate a petition to convince the property managers to overturn the new rule.
“The main response I got was they said it was like living in a prison if this went on and that it shouldn’t be allowed because it’s an invasion of our rights,” she said.
Stith-Wallace collected 71 signatures after knocking on the doors of all 155 apartment units. She says 16 units are empty, so 71 represents more than 50 per cent of the residents.
She points out that the rule against used or second-hand furniture is not fair to people who can’t afford to buy new furniture.
“If they could afford it, they wouldn’t be living in this building because it’s an assisted-living building and low-income building,” she said. “Myself included; if I could afford to shop at the Brick or wherever, then I would be.”
If family members want to give residents second-hand furniture or electronics, she says that should be their decision.
Stith-Wallace does agree that bed bugs are a serious problem in the building and something needs to be done. She and other residents point out that thrift stores already check for bed bugs.
She says this rule goes too far.
“I think there should be a policy put in place where you have to go through certain steps to make sure there aren’t bed bugs,” Stith-Wallace said. “There should be no dictatorship over whether you can shop in these places or not.”
Regina Housing Authority (RHA) has responded to the concerns with another letter promising to set up a meeting at a later date. Officials with RHA were not available for interviews, but did send an emailed statement in response.
“At properties where there has been a history of pest control concerns, such as at Prairie Place, we must take heightened action around protection to ensure the comfort and wellbeing of our tenants.”
The email referred to the responsibility of property managers under the Residential Tenancies Act to ensure rental units are clean. It went on to say tenants are also required by law to maintain a standard of cleanliness and that includes working to prevent and quickly control infestations of pests.