NDP set to announce fate of purchased floodway homes by Darcy Henton, December 8, 2015, Calgary Herald
Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee is set to announce the fate of the Calgary flood zone homes purchased by the government after the 2013 flood, but it appears most of the damaged houses will be demolished.
Larivee will reveal Wednesday whether the homes purchased in a controversial voluntary buyout program initiated by the Progressive Conservative government will be demolished as planned or resold, after the NDP suspended the program this year.
But she said in an interview Tuesday that most are unsafe for habitation.
“The truth is there is a substantial number that anything other than demolition is not an option because they have been damaged, they have not been maintained, and they need to be taken down — and that’s certainly the vast majority,” she said. “There are a few that potentially may be salvageable.”
Larivee said independent engineers assessed the 18 residences purchased through the program.
She said the NDP government has had to look at “balancing out” the needs and desires of that community in terms of quality of life and maintaining a healthy community versus the real risks and liabilities posed by the damaged structures.
“We heard the community’s concerns and we wanted to ensure that we really did a thorough examination of all the various options and issues around how to deal with this unfortunate problem, so we took the time to do that,” Larivee said.
She was critical of the voluntary buyout program that has made a patchwork of the community.
“This voluntary patchwork approach to it, certainly in hindsight, wasn’t necessarily the best decision, but we have to deal with what happened — not what we wish happened,” she said.
If communities are “really at risk” of frequently flooding, residences should be removed, she said.
Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark, who represents the riding where the flooding occurred, said he encouraged the minister to look at reselling any homes fit for human habitation.
“So long as the caveats are in place, people understand fully those houses are in the floodway and until such time flood mitigation is built are at some risk, but that’s the case for dozens of other homes adjacent where they didn’t take buyout,” he said. “If you take one house out of the row you actually make it more dangerous for the next house in line and for all the houses in the community because you have created a gap where water can flow through. It risks making it worse.”
He urged the minister to seek the biggest return for the taxpayers, keep the communities whole and reduce future risk to the remaining neighbours.
Wildrose critic Dave Schneider said that if new homes are built on the lots, they must be built with the caveat that the owners aren’t eligible for future government flood damage assistance.
“The government should never ever have to be involved in any kind of flood damage payments for homes on those lots from now to the end of eternity,” he said. “They can’t get caught in this kind of mess again.”
PC Leader Ric McIver conceded the Tory government program wasn’t perfect.
“It was expensive, it was difficult, but it was principled. And while the decision might not have been perfect, the fact that it was based on some principles gave it a chance of being the right thing to do.”
Taxpayers spent almost $84 million to purchase 79 Alberta homes through the province’s controversial flood-buyout program — including $46 million for just 18 homes in Calgary. [Homes that ought to have never been built there in the first place]
The bulk of the payout for the Calgary properties — $33 million — went toward purchasing 11 homes on Roxboro Road and Riverdale Avenue.
Although 254 homeowners in Alberta qualified for the program, only 112 applied by the summer deadline.
Critics and homeowners contend the buyout offer was misguided because the zones were based on outdated flood maps. [Emphasis added]
[For details on the Alberta government’s fraudulent reports and gopher shit water sampling, read Andrew Nikiforuk’s new book, Slick Water.]