Contractors go public with fight for pay

Contractors are resorting to legal action and media attention to get money they say they’re owed for renovations of affordable housing units last year. Seventeen Halifax companies are out $1.2 million they spent on renovations on North End United Housing Co-operative (NEU) properties.

By Natascia Lypny

Charles Court co-op housing on Wood Avenue is part of an unfinished renovation project (Natascia Lypny photo).

Contractors are resorting to legal action and media attention to get money they say they’re owed for renovations of affordable housing units last year.

Seventeen Halifax companies are out $1.2 million they spent on renovations on North End United Housing Co-operative (NEU) properties.

“I am currently owed $370,000,” says Dan Monk of Monk Renovations & Painting Inc., one of the hired companies.

Three other companies filed lawsuits against the co-operative and its project manager, Eagle Project Management Inc.

Monk says going to court would mean incurring more debt.

Instead, he and a few other contractors went to the CBC on Monday, attempting to use “the media to put pressure on the powers that be.”

Local media including the CBC, the Chronicle Herald, and the Metro covered the missed payments this week.

Monk worked for NEU as a subcontractor for Reliable Rooter Ltd. starting April of 2010. His company renovated bathrooms in the co-op’s four housing neighbourhoods.

The NEU last paid Monk in July of 2010.

“The cost — the impact — on my company is enormous,” says Monk. “We’re not multi-million dollar companies. We’re five to 15 people.”

Monk took out a maximum line of credit to keep his company afloat.

“The money has been paid out. All my employees have been paid. All my suppliers have been paid. I even paid taxes on my invoices.  The only one who hasn’t been paid is my company,” says Monk.

Several contractors put a lien of $5,000 on the housing units, says Monk.

But the money the contractors want doesn’t exist.

“As a not-for-profit housing co-operative, the payment of these outstanding invoices is well beyond the limits of NEU’s operating budget,” reads a media statement released by the co-op Monday evening.

External links
North End United Housing Co-op
Nova Scotia Department of Community Services
The Co-op Housing Federation of Canada
Amalgamated housing co-op receives $3.1 million in federal/provincial stimulus funds
3.1-million Investment in Halifax Housing Co-op Announced

The NEU received $3.144 million in January of 2010 for energy-efficient upgrades to the co-operative’s 131 units. The money came from the Social Housing Assistance and Repair Program (SHARP) through the Department of Community Services.

There was disagreement between the NEU and the department over other negotiated amounts of money, says Jonathan Hannam, president of the NEU’s board of directors, in an email.

The renovations went over budget as the co-op faced unforeseen mold and rot problems in some housing units.

The department doled out an additional $250,000, says Dan Troke, the director of housing for the Department of Community Services.

The money still wasn’t enough to balance the books.

According to Troke, the NEU won’t be getting any more funding, nor will the department engage in lawsuits with the contractors.

“All responsibility around decision-making, around the functioning of a co-op, is on the board of directors and the board of directors (is) liable for what happens,” says Troke. “It was understood that there is this money flowing to the co-op and any money over and above, that is the responsibility of the co-op.”

The department put the project on hold in August of 2010 without the work being completed.

The co-op is now looking to the department for guidance on how to move forward. One option is increasing housing charges to better meet the costs of running the co-op.

Hannam expressed concern in his email that if the situation isn’t resolved 131 affordable housing units for low-income Haligonians could be lost.