Former MLA Criticizes Alberta Housing Development In Flood Risk Areas

By: Gary Parkinson on June 24, 2013

A former member of the Alberta government is making a controversial argument only days after heavy rains flooded Calgary.  George Groeneveld, who chaired the 2006 Provincial Flood Mitigation Committee, believes housing development in the flood plains resulted in more damages in Calgary over the last few days than was necessary.

The Flood Mitigation Committee submitted a report in response to the 2005 floods that swept through parts of southern Alberta.  The report recommended that Crown owned lands stop being sold to private developers, which would restrict the number of new homes built in flood-prone regions.  Groeneveld argues that local governments ignored the recommendations of the report by allowing construction to proceed, which left thousands more homeowners vulnerable to the raging floods sweeping into Calgary.

“If you’re going to build in those areas, you take on the responsibility yourself.  That to me was the strength of the report, stop building where we shouldn't be building.”

In the report, Groeneveld wrote that building homes in at-risk flood zones increases the amount of funding necessary to pay for disaster recovery.  In order to raise additional money to properly fund the disaster relief programs, homeowners can expect to pay higher home insurance premiums as a consequence. 

The report asked for a notification system that automatically alerts potential buyers that a home is in a flood zone, and vulnerable to potential overflowing of water.  Groeneveld also recommended that disaster recovery payments be eliminated for neighbourhoods developed in flood risk areas.

“When you have a disaster, don't be looking for the government to bail you out when you build in these areas.”

The former MLA is disappointed that six years passed before the public could read the report, and become more informed about housing in flood-prone plains.  Groeneveld believes if the report was made public sooner, many of the new neighbourhoods currently underwater never would have been built, saving millions in disaster relief payments.