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Homebuilders Association warns wildfire rebuild process will not be easy

By Joe Thomson Jun 6, 2023 | 12:31 PM

A plane drops a mix of water and fire retardant foam on the fire in Shelburne County (Photo Credit: communications Nova Scotia).

The wildfires across the province have damaged and destroyed hundreds of homes leaving many people having to start all over.

The President for the Canadian Homebuilders Association of Nova Scotia, Justin Johnson, says the process of rebuilding will be a lengthy one.

“With fire unfortunately, it’s the assessment time of what is salvageable, even for houses that weren’t completely destroyed… Can you rebuild on that foundation, is the septic field completely melted inside so that you have to do a completely new septic, a completely new well? Said Johnson. “So, there’s a lot of assessment that needs to be done even for houses that aren’t completely reduced to rubble, which is going to take time.”

Even once all those assessments are completed, Johnson says people may have to wait some time yet to get their homes rebuilt. He said that the province is still experiencing a shortage of skilled labourers and that supply chain issues resulting from the pandemic continue to linger.

“It’s going to be very difficult… we were already in a backlog situation. If someone came to me today and said, ‘I want to build a home today,’ we would probably look at them and say, ‘Okay, we are going to shoot to try and break ground next summer or fall,” said Johnson.

He said the CHBANS has been working with the province to secure more skilled labourers from foreign countries, but with the immense amount of building already happening, resources will still be stretched thin.

“We’ve already got that backlog and now we’re adding a couple hundred homes on top of that. It’s going to be very difficult to manage,” said Johnson.

The CHBANS has been meeting regularly with the province to find out when the assessments on damaged and destroyed homes can happen. Johnson says even homes that seem fine might have such extensive smoke damaged that they could be deemed unlivable.

Even once those assessments are done and the resources are secured, Johnson says he and the province will have some difficult decisions on their hands. Will people who lost their homes in the fire take priority over others who have been waiting in some cases over a year for their home to be built?

“There are still people that are in dire straits as far as trying to find somewhere to live while they’re waiting for the house to be built. There are very limited rental resources available at this point… those people that have been waiting, may not have a home if they get pushed to the bottom of the list,” said Johnson.

This is just one of the many issues the government will have to deal with as we start to recover from the wildfires. In the meantime, Premier Tim Houston says he is working to find temporary housing solutions for those impacted by the fires.


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