06/20/2014 10:33 EDT | Updated 08/20/2014 05:59 EDT

Mould-riddled Vancouver tower takes BC Housing 2 years to repair, say tenants

Tenants of a publicly owned building in Vancouver’ s West End say they have been living in a mould-infested apartment tower for two years, with few repairs.

But B.C. Housing now says the Sunset Towers on Barclay Street will undergo a major $4.7 million renovation in July.

Residents say they have been living with dark mould on at least five different floors and leaking water pipes in the locker room since 2012.

Barbara Kolodie, 71,  told CBC "There's mould everywhere. It's still leaking, the tiles are still falling in; there's been nothing to even take care of that “

"There's the tiles, it's soaking wet, they're caving in, and they could extremely damage people just by falling in."

Mould spores spreading?

The 500 unit, 15-storey apartment building at 1655 Barclay is operated by provincial crown corporation BC Housing to provide subsidized accommodation for low income tenants, many of whom are elderly or HIV positive.

Kolodie, who is a long-time tenant,  says she is afraid the building's ventilation system is spreading mould spores throughout the floors and into the lungs of tenants with compromised immune systems.

"Stepping back from the emotions, the big part of it is that we have so many people in our building that are very sick.

Kolodie isn't alone in her concerns. Fellow tenant Caroline Caveno, also 71,say the tenants feel insulted.

"It's a disaster down there. I mean there's water on the floor and build up everywhere and pipes dripping," said Caveno. "I can't believe anything like that is allowed to go on."

Kolodie says she complained to the City of Vancouver in October 2012. At the time, BC Housing promised the  mould problem would be rectified starting in early 2013. But she says that did not happen.

B.C. Housing promises major reno

Dale McMann of BC Housing told CBC that starting mid July,  the building, which is close to 40 years old, will be completely re-fit with new piping. Other remediation work will also take place.

Neither Kolodie nor Caveno were aware that BC Housing is planning a major renovation next month.

But McMann says the upcoming renovations have been communicated to tenants.

“Written communication has gone out to all of the tenants in the building advising that this is going to be coming and  there will be some disruption” , he said.

Health Canada guidelines state "Mould growth in residential buildings may pose a health hazard. Health risks depend on exposure or...allergic sensitization."

In addition, Health Canada recommends building owners "...control humidity and diligently repair any water prevent mould growth; and to clean thoroughly any visible or concealed mould growing in residential buildings."