Alberta government says 14,500 homes affected by June floods
CALGARY — The Alberta government says more than 14,500 homes were damaged during severe flooding in June.
It also says 2,700 people are still living in temporary housing, in hotels or with friends and family.
The figures are in a two-month flood update provided by the province.
More than 8,000 applications for disaster recovery support are currently being processed and payments totalling nearly $7 million have so far been made.
Thousands of people in Calgary and surrounding communities were forced from their homes June 20 — including the entire community of High River that had to be evacuated.
Alberta Premier Alison Redford said earlier this week that provincial estimates show “well over” $5 billion will be needed to rebuild infrastructure, but she wasn’t clear what that includes.
She stressed the cost figure is evolving, because it’s “still early days.”
“As we look back, we can’t lose sight of those who are still dealing with this disaster every day,” Redford said in a statement marking the passing of two months Tuesday. “Thousands of Albertans are still unable to return home and many have extensive rebuilding still ahead of them.”
She has warned this week that tough times are ahead as the province tries to fit such a large cost into its budget. But she also noted that the province has saved money in other areas so far this year and there is about $2 billion to $3 billion in its savings account that can be used to cover flood costs.
She has pledged that infrastructure commitments in the province’s spring budget will still be met by borrowing to pay for all the building.
“As a province, be assured these efforts to rebuild will not be at the expense of the rest of the Alberta,” she said Tuesday. “We vowed to build all of Alberta, and we will.”
Also Tuesday, Canada’s best-known contractor met with residents of High River and Rick Fraser, the associate minister of Regional Recovery and Reconstruction.
Mike Holmes hosts the show “Holmes on Homes”, which rescues homeowners from repair and renovation disasters.
He said the time has come to tear down homes in the heavily damaged Hampton Hills neighbourhood.
“When the water has exceeded into the first floor of the home, that home should come down,” Holmes said. “There is no fixing that. I don’t care what anyone says, you can’t fix it.”
He adds that starting over is the only option for some badly damaged homes.
“Take it down, build it smarter. If you try and fix it, you’re going to have problems.”
Owners are seeking a buyout of their flooded homes, but have been told by the province they are not in a flood plain and will have to rebuild.
“It drives you crazy. Purgatory is how I describe it,” says resident Lisa Szabon-Smith.
“This is hard. We’re expecting our first child and we’re trying to focus on the home we were going to bring him to, 1/8but 3/8 every time we ask the government questions we’re patronized.”
Residents say they just want to move forward, but spend all their time trying to get answers from government officials.
“I do it all day long,” complains homeowner Sarah Bruinsma. “I neglect my children, I neglect my job, because I still have a house that is unsafe that I can’t take my children to.”
Affected residents are requesting a lump sum payment from the government, so they have the financial freedom to make a decision about the future of their homes.