Kitchener fire forces people into crazy market for rent

KITCHENER – Allison Waite is a single mother of two looking for an apartment for the first time in 15 years after a fire Saturday night displaced several people from a building on Cedar Hill.

“Everything is so expensive, it is going to be hard to find something even close to what I have or had — it’s crazy.” ” said Waite in an interview Monday.

“There are six units, and everyone has lost their homes — nine people in total,” she added.

A fire Saturday night destroyed her apartment and heavily damaged the other units in the brick building on the northeast corner of Benton and St. George streets.

“Right now my kids and I are living in separate places,” said Waite.

The Red Cross paid for Waite’s motel room for three nights, but beginning Tuesday night she has to stay with friends. She wanted to spare her children the motel experience. So, Waite’s daughter is with family, and her son is with his best friend’s family.

“I am in a crisis situation, trying to put everyone in a safe place and wrap my head around what happened,” said Waite. “I haven’t even looked at sites for apartments yet, because I have had so much chaos going on.”

Waite was paying $895 a month for the apartment that had two bedrooms and a den. Her children had their own bedrooms, and Waite used the den for her.

The apartment overlooked a large, tree-shaded yard shared by four properties that wrap around Benton and St. George. The same landlord owns all four buildings, Waite said, and raised the rent infrequently, keeping it affordable.

“We had this shared, communal space with all these people, and most of the tenants have lived here for years and years,” said Waite. “It has been a wonderful place, my safe place. It was my home.”

When Waite moved in, her son was a year old. He is now 16.

“We lost everything in the fire. I don’t have anything now,” she added. “The whole place went up in flames, so I don’t think there is going to be anything salvageable.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for the displaced residents.

Three of the people displaced by the fire sat in the backyard Monday afternoon talking quietly. Waite’s apartment was on the upper floor where the fire burned a large hole through the roof. A backhoe hits beside a pile of debris that was part of the building.

Saturday night was supposed to be extra special for Waite and her son. She took him to Toronto for his first concert — Roger Waters’ “This is Not a Drill.” They were already in Toronto when she took the call — her apartment building was on fire. They came back right away.

While home prices are dropping, the same is not true for rents, and the fire has nine more people looking for a place to live at a time when the rent for a two-bedroom apartment can be $2,300 a month.

“That’s the thing about affordable housing,” said Waite, who pauses to find the right words. “It’s pretty much, that’s insane.”

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