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Some Calgary tenants say ongoing construction to their building has them living in scorching heat

Some tenants at Panorama Court in Calgary’s Beltline area say ongoing construction to their building is causing major disruptions to their lives.

Resident Stephanie Haynes says heat — throughout the scorching summer — has been the worst part.

She says through the last couple heat waves, her and her neighbours’ windows were wrapped in plastic. And while it’s since been removed, she says her unit is still scorching, as scaffolding and netting remains on one side of the building.

“It’s been pretty unbearable, I’m not going to lie. What we’ve gone through the past year — I’m still having trouble coming to terms with it,” said Haynes, who says her rent also increased 31 per cent during the construction work.

“We almost called the ambulance because [my mom] was so overheated that we were worried that something was going to be really, really wrong.”

Haynes and some neighbours, alongside tenant advocates with ACORN Alberta, gathered in front of Panorama Court Thursday morning to continue calling for better conditions as construction continues.

A residential building covered in scaffolding and green netting.
The north side of Panorama Court is covered in scaffolding and netting, though a spokesperson with Great West Life Realty Advisors says it will all be removed by the end of August. (Karina Zapata/CBC)

The building’s owner, Great West Life Realty Advisors, began construction last fall. It’s removing the brick exterior at 617 15th Ave. S.W. and replacing it with energy-efficient cladding.

In an email, a spokesperson for Great West Life said the construction work is important to address the structural integrity of the building’s exterior.

“As an older building, these types of capital improvements are necessary for the health and safety of our residents and are mandated by city regulations.”

They say residents have temporarily restricted access to their balconies for their safety, but work is nearly finished and remaining scaffolding will be removed by the end of the month.

In the meantime, the company has made several accommodations to mitigate the impact of construction, including offering portable air conditioners to residents in units that are directly impacted, they say.

The spokesperson says they recently increased rents to better align with market rates, but they’re unrelated to the building’s improvements.

Calling for changes

Haynes says residents’ previous advocacy was met with some success — Great West Life added more security after they raised concerns.

Now, she says tenants want rents to return to their pre-construction rates, with rebates for the extra money they’ve paid so far.

“We also want guaranteed lease renewals for anyone that does choose to stay,” said Haynes.

Great West Life told CBC they’ve met with the tenants’ association about their demands. CBC previously reported that the company told tenants in April there would be no rebates due to construction.

NDP housing critic Janis Irwin met some tenants Thursday as they picketed in front of their building.

She says she’s hearing from renters across Alberta about how expensive and inaccessible housing is right now, but it seems most dire in Calgary.

Irwin says she’s marked her calendar for Sept. 14 — when Calgary city council plans to discuss its housing strategy, based on recommendations from its housing and affordability task force.

“I hope that Calgarians and the provincial government and the federal government as well will show that they’re willing to take this housing crisis — this very serious crisis that’s impacting Calgarians — seriously and that they’ll take action because we can’t wait any longer,” said Irwin.

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