Winnipeg apartment fire leaves residents seeking affordable housing

Residents dealing with the aftermath of an apartment fire at 221 Stradbrook Ave. last week are struggling to find affordable, pet-friendly housing after the building was deemed inhabitable.

Resident Elizabeth Wilde bounced around between family and friends for the past week and says she is now settling into an Airbnb she’ll call home for the next two months.

“I barely remember the last week. It’s just all been like a blur. It’s, like, stressful.” she says. “I’m lucky that I have a lot of friends and family who were looking out for me and helping me find places and letting me stay with them.”

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg resident displaced by high-rise fire facing challenges collecting belongings, temporary accommodations'

Winnipeg resident displaced by high-rise fire facing challenges collecting belongings, temporary accommodations

Last Thursday night, Wilde says she hurried home after finding out her high-rise apartment building, where she’s lived since it opened two years ago, had caught fire.

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She says crews were able to bring her cats to safety, but she wasn’t able to set foot in her place until Tuesday morning and she was given barely any time to get her belongings.

“I’d have 20 minutes to go and grab whatever I could basically from the apartment minus, like, large furniture items, obviously, because we had to use the stairs.”

She says her personal place was not damaged much but there was some furniture displaced from when crews had to come in and rescue her cats.

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“I have with me, like, two fairly decent sized, like two storage bins, two suitcases, and three duffel bags. One was like a big hockey bag kind of thing. So I managed to grab a decent amount of stuff from the place.”

Upper-floor resident Jerid Kallusky says he also had to hustle to reclaim as much of his stuff as possible but he is just happy things weren’t worse. “Things happen every day. I’m glad everybody is safe and no one got hurt”

Meanwhile, other residents have not seen their suites yet and are worried about what they may find. Leyana Haile says she hopes to find clothes that aren’t too wet and she is already on the hunt for a new place since learning the property was deemed inhabitable.

“It’s a bit saturated, though, with the market. Everyone here is gonna be trying to find a home.” Haile says.

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Giacomo Ladas with agrees that sentiment. He says there are a limited number of units available in Winnipeg with average prices up more than eight per cent over last year and a vacancy rate of 2.5 per cent, that’s down from five per cent two years ago.

“We’re seeing record low numbers of actual available units, so it might be a little bit more difficult now to find a place than they were used to even just two years ago,” Ladas says.

“A one-bedroom apartment in Winnipeg will cost you $1,261 a month, and a two-bedroom apartment will cost you $1,637 a month.”

Thankfully for Wilde, she has already secured a new apartment which she can move into in November and she has new opinions on what building she would like to live in.

“Now I’m kind of wary of newer builds. Like, I expect it’s not always going to go smoothly. So, I think going forward I’d probably look at older builds that have been standing for a lot longer.”

Wilde says she is bothered by unanswered questions such as how a building so new could engulf in flames.

With files from Global’s Rosanna Hempel

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