As the floods come, who should pay the price for preparation?

Preparing a home for bad weather makes sense – but who should foot the bill?

As the floods come, who should pay the price for preparation?

Catastrophe & Flood

By Will Koblensky

While a lot of noise is made about preventing floods by banning construction and rebuilding in flood zones, many existing neighbourhoods need protection and not relocation.

Retrofitting homes is one solution, with sustainability pilot projects already taking place in municipalities like Durham Region and Burlington in the GTA.

Working on the national standard for resilience-focused home retrofitting assessment is Blair Feltmate, head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo. Feltmate spoke about what the costs would amount to for assessing retrofits and who would be responsible for paying them at the 2017 Flood Risk Summit.

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“We’re applying this (retrofit assessment) program to 4,000 homes in Burlington,” Feltmate said. “The cost per home is $275. Then the question now becomes… who pays?”

“Is it a combination of the province, the municipality, the insurer and the homeowner?”

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As Feltmate points out, while the cost may seem minimal to owners of high-value properties, it is a significant cost for others.

“If it’s a very low-priced home where, perhaps the person living in the home lives right on the edge every month, $275 is a lot of money to a lot of people,” Feltmate said. “At some level of pricing need, should there be a subsidy from the province, the municipality, the insurer, perhaps the bank? Who pays the homeowner to operationalize this program?”

The actual retrofits themselves involve adding sump pumps, rain barrels and disconnecting down spouts. Redirecting down spouts away from the foundation costs around $25, Feltmate said, while a backwater valve installation could run to as much as $2,500. 

“In many communities in Canada there is a subsidy offered by municipalities to help the homeowner with that installation,” he explained. “But the problem is the uptake - even in communities that have 100% subsidies offered for down spout disconnect, backwater valve installation, sump pump installation, the uptake in cities across the country is only around 47%.

“However, when you actually go to the door with a little pre-emptive work to fertilize the landscape, the uptake on the home flood protection program by homeowners is about 65% to 70%. Three-quarters of homeowners operationalize about two-thirds to three-quarters of the recommendations borne from the home assessment program within a six to eight week period.”

Related stories:
Canada’s flood zone secret
Natural infrastructure key to flood pricing – Lloyd’s

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