By Michael Tutton
David Oxford says he hopes the Nova Scotia government will consider buying and demolishing his flood-damaged home in the Halifax area, as he fears climate change will bring more dangerous downpours to his street.
In an interview Wednesday, he and his wife Claudette Oxford said they are among those on Union Street, in the suburb of Bedford, who hope the Progressive Conservative government considers purchasing their homes before the Sackville River spills its banks again.
The torrential downpour of up to 250 millimetres that began July 21 was far worse than two earlier flooding events: this time water filled the couple’s basement and rose just under a metre on his first floor in a few hours.
In nearby Hants County, four people – including two children – died in raging floodwaters that night.
The Oxfords are now living with relatives and are considering carrying out repairs that would require them to apply for between $75,000 and $100,000 from the provincially administered disaster financial assistance program.
But Oxford, 70, said it might be wiser for the province to buy his home and others like it, instead of having to repeatedly provide homeowners with disaster relief in decades to come.
“If the government thinks that’s the best way to proceed, I would certainly entertain the offer,” he said.
“We’re going to have a lot more weekends and a lot more days where we get 120 millimetres to 150 millimetres of rain in a short period of time. And I’m afraid the Sackville River can’t cope with that kind of rain.”
Kelly Regan, a Liberal member of the legislature for the Bedford area, issued a news release Wednesday calling for John Lohr, the minister responsible for the Emergency Management Office, to do what the former Liberal government did after the 2016 Thanksgiving Day flood in Sydney, N.S. The Liberals offered to purchase 18 homes, according to a news release at the time.
“We have people who didn’t know they were buying on a floodplain and have mortgages, and they’re paying mortgages on houses they can’t actually occupy,”Regan said, adding there are about 38 vulnerable homes on Union Street.
She said attempting to protect those homes with some form of dikes or berms would likely be very expensive compared to a buy out. As well, Regan said there are safety risks if residents are left to hope climate-related flooding will diminish.
“We nearly lost people in Bedford … we have people who very nearly did not get out,” she said. “Telling people to rebuild ignores the very real threat to many of our residents.”
The member of the legislature said the emptied land could be converted to parkland or other recreational uses once homes are removed.
“There’s a whole lot of angst, and I’m just really worried that it’s something that’s going to happen again and next time people won’t get out.”
Lohr declined to provide an interview on the Liberals’ call for land and home purchases.
Krista Higdon, a spokeswoman for his office, said in an email, “Any decision to purchase affected properties would require an in-depth analysis of current impacts and potential future risks.”
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