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Government of Alberta: Disaster Recovery Housing Program

Stantec was engaged by the Government of Alberta through e-VANS Corporation on the Disaster Recovery Housing Program, less than two weeks following the 2013 Alberta Southern Floods from June 21–23. We responded immediately by helping the Government of Alberta (GoA) with delivering phased accommodation to respond to immediate, medium, and long term housing needs and related infrastructure requirements.

The Disaster Recovery Housing Program was first delivered in the Town of High River, where we provided project management oversight during the construction of the Saddlebrook New Temporary Neighborhood (NTN). The first phase of this temporary neighborhood was ready for occupancy on July 24, 2013, three and a half weeks after the project was initiated. Work was also completed for the Highwood Junction NTN, Tongue Creek site, two fire halls, and the Great Plains NTN in the City of Calgary.

At the beginning of July, we were also asked to help with immediate and long term housing recovery on Siksika Nation and Stoney Nakoda Nation. The GoA entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with both First Nations to repair, replace, or rebuild flood affected housing. We assisted the GoA with designing a response to the First Nations’ housing needs, and provided project oversight and management of the program.

At Siksika Nation, houses in parts of the community were submerged in water as a result of the Bow River overflowing its banks. As an emergency response, evacuated residents were accommodated at Siksika Nation’s Deerfoot Sportsplex. The GoA therefore committed to providing 90-day temporary accommodation to the evacuees, and relied on us to oversee the development and construction of relief shelters at three separate locations on the Nation. Siksika Nation is one of the largest First Nations in Canada and is geographically diverse. This diversity was accommodated through three separate sites: Deerfoot Relief Shelter, Crowfoot Relief Shelter, and Poor Eagle Relief Shelter. The first relief shelter was available for occupancy in two and a half weeks on August 1, 2013. The second relief shelter was complete in mid-August, and the final relief shelter at the end of August. The relief shelters are currently occupied with 338 residents and will remain in place until the evacuees relocate to longer term interim housing, or replacement housing.

In addition to emergency relief accommodation, we managed the inspection of 152 houses in Siksika Nation by qualified professionals, in accordance with the GoA’s program requirements. Houses that were coded black were slated for demolition due to structural or health hazards. 72 houses coded red or yellow were repaired for interim use, until long-term housing solutions are available. Meanwhile, We worked closely with Nation representatives on concepts for two new temporary neighborhoods. The result is the Crowfoot New Temporary Neighborhood and the Deerfoot New Temporary Neighborhood, which are permanently serviced and designed to respect the Nation’s community clusters. Each neighborhood has 103 house sites, which is enough to accommodate Interim modular units now, as well as other housing for long-term recovery in the future.

To the west of Calgary, houses at Stoney Nakoda Nation were also severely impacted by the storm event. The Nation is comprised of three separate bands that are responsible for their own housing and recovery efforts. We worked with each band to identify barriers in placing residents in warm, safe, and dry housing. The GoA’s commitment to Stoney Nakoda Nation was consistent with Siksika Nation, the Town of High River, and other flood affected communities in Southern Alberta. A housing recovery program was defined at Stoney Nakoda Nation, and Stantec was mandated to provide project oversight on its delivery.

In August 2013, we managed basement inspections to assess the level of flood damage for 353 houses identified as flood affected by the bands. Due to the lack of reliable or available data, this program expanded to include every house on the Nation, over 1,000 houses, to confirm which houses were flood affected. Based on the inspection, scope of work, and cost estimate for each house, we are helping the GoA determine the viability of repairing a house, compared to demolishing and replacing it. The house repair program is estimated to be complete by the end of 2016. We also managed the development of three interim housing sites and the placement of housing units on three sites–one for each band. Similar to the relief shelters at Siksika Nation, these interim housing sites provide accommodation and meals, and currently accommodate over 350 residents.

Throughout the Disaster Recovery Housing Program, we have looked for opportunities to leave a legacy behind at the First Nations. At Siksika Nation, the new neighborhoods were meant to be temporary–housing units and services were to be dismantled at the end of the project’s life. However, we found an opportunity to leave behind a physical legacy that was financially viable and congruent with the GoA’s objectives, as well as the Nation’s long term housing strategy. The permanent infrastructure at the NTNs can provide value in Siksika Nation’s long term recovery. At Stoney Nakoda Nation, we worked with consultants to develop a database containing all data collected on the recovery program, which will be turned over to Stoney Nakoda Nation as an asset management tool.

Most importantly, we are actively looking for opportunities where the First Nations can build capacity through the Disaster Recovery Housing Program. This is aligned with the GoA’s objectives as well as the Nations’ desire to participate in their own recovery. We’re engaged in the GoA’s skills training and employment program and connect Nation members with industry representatives. We also work with the First Nations, and the GoA and its contractors/consultants, to find employment opportunities for Nation members, wherever possible.  

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