July 21, 2024

Living In Limbo

Tenants displaced by a March 2022 Tillsonburg apartment fire are still waiting to go home. Mostly seniors used to rent-controlled units, they’ve struggled for affordable alternatives in the fast-growing town and some fear they’ll be priced out of going back. The landlord’s rep says they want them back and are working as fast as they can amid supply issues. Brian Williams reports.

Madeline Willaeys still vividly recalls her first night after the fire, alone in a motel room.

“I can remember laying down in (the) bed and I’m thinking, ‘I don’t have a home anymore,’ and I started to cry,” said the 90-year-old.

“I was all by myself.”

Willaeys was among dozens of residents, nearly all senior citizens, displaced after a fire blamed on careless smoking broke out in their Tillsonburg apartment building in March 2022.

The scenes that played out early that morning at 195 Lisgar Ave. were dramatic.

Flames shot out of an upper-floor window. Smoke billowed from the building and filled hallways, clouding exits. Tenants, some still asleep, were roused by people banging on doors to alert them to the fire.

It was an emergency so serious, two people were hurt and about 17 were stranded on their balconies and rescued by firefighters.

Heavy water and smoke damage left the six-storey building needing major repairs. The 70 or so tenants, many of them pensioners, suddenly had to find other places to live. That’s tough enough for anyone in Tillsonburg, one of Canada’s fastest-growing smaller centres, but especially for tenants accustomed to rent-controlled prices – from $600 to $1,300 a month – in an older building.

Interesting Read…