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Joe Rulz lives at the rooming house on North Street in Halifax, and he doesn't know what he's going to do if he's evicted in September. (Jacob Moore/Acadia Broadcasting)

Halifax rooming house halls, bathrooms lined with trash

By Jacob Moore Jun 3, 2024 | 7:01 PM

Inside the rooming house at 6273 North Street, Harris Romkey, who’s lived in the building for 26 years, stands at the door of the second-floor bathrooms.

Garbage and toilet paper litter the floors. The showers are moldy. And everything is covered in dirt and grime.

“It’s like a human rights violation, wouldn’t you say?” he asks.

The hallway, also lined with garbage and food wrappers, smells of dust and dirty carpets. The cover is torn off an electric baseboard heater. Some of the windows have to be propped open, one with an empty milk jug.

Thirty-nine people live in this building. The owner, CB MacDonald Properties, wants to evict the tenants to renovate. However, according to the city of Halifax, the owners don’t yet have any building permits.

CB MacDonald Properties is run by Adam Conter, Dan Jockel and Tom Jockel, according to Nova Scotia’s Registry of Joint Stock Companies. They took over the property in 2021.

One of the bathrooms at the North Street rooming house is pictured on June 3, 2024. (Jacob Moore/Acadia Broadcasting)

Another bathroom on the second floor of the North Street rooming house is pictured on June 3, 2024. (Jacob Moore/Acadia Broadcasting)

Acadia Broadcasting’s newsroom reached out to Adam Conter for comment.

Halifax is in a housing crisis, and finding a new place to live with such short notice will be hard, says Romkey.

“It’s like being told to jump off a ship in the middle of the ocean. And there’s nowhere to go,” he says.

He’s also concerned because he’s not sure what sort of arrangement he even has with the new owners. He was “grandfathered in” with no lease, paid a damage deposit and still pays rent every month.

That’s why he’s glad Dalhousie Legal Aid is offering to help the tenants at the building.

Harris Romkey has lived at the North Street rooming house for 26 years. (Jacob Moore/Acadia Broadcasting)

They visited the rooming house on Monday, armed with clip boards to survey tenants and figure out what arrangements they currently have, as well as the history of their leases.

Sydneey Blum, a legal worker with the group, previously told our newsroom that these tenants might have legal protections they don’t know about.

“It’s great to have somebody on your side,” says Romkey. “You have to stand up for your rights, seek legal advice.”

Conditions used to better, says previous tenant

Gary Julien lived in the rooming house between November 2003 and October 2007.

He was in a tough spot and there weren’t many affordable options. He liked that they only charged by the week at the time, he says.

“That was a good situation,” says Julien.

Gary Julien, who lived in the North Street rooming house from 2003 to 2007, says the condition used to be better. (Jacob Moore/Acadia Broadcasting)

He visited the building Monday to show his support for the people living there.

When he saw the pictures of the dirty bathrooms, he says it used to be much better. A janitor would clean every day, not just vacuuming, but he would clean the bathrooms and the outside, too, making sure the dumpster was neat.

The condition now is horrible, he says.

Joe Rulz says he’s been at the rooming house for a few years, and Dalhousie Legal Aid has helped him out in the past.

The condition of the building is bad, he says, but he doesn’t know where else he would go. He pays $609 a month for his room.

He’s tried the Metro Non-Profit Housing Association and Welcome Housing, but he says that’s a “waiting game.”

“This place is all that I had, and now, I don’t know what I have,” he says.