Four months after a devastating hailstorm swept through northeast Calgary, much of the damage remains as homeowners continue to wait for their insurance claims to be handled.
“There are a lot of people whose homes aren’t ready for the winter,” Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi said Monday.
“It is incumbent on all of us, particularly on the government of Alberta, to be doing what they can to be helping people through these very difficult times.”
Nenshi, along with councillors George Chahal, Gian-Carlo Carra, Peter Demong and Sean Chu, as well as NDP MLA Irfan Sabir, toured through the south end of Saddleridge on Monday to get a firsthand look at the scale of the damage that remains.
Chahal, who represents Ward 5, which includes many of the neighbourhoods affected by the storm, told reporters that less than half of the 70,000 insurance claims filed following the storm have been resolved.
“Many folks are having challenges with the insurance companies. For many, it’s their first time in dealing with those insurance companies and being able to navigate through that system,” Chahal said.
“I think there’s a lot of work to do to support our residents and making sure that they’re being treated fairly as they go through this process.”
Less than a month after the storm, Calgary city council passed a notice of motion from Chahal aimed at responding to the storm.
In the motion, council requested Nenshi to write a letter to the province and federal government to advocate for relief including interest-free loans, tax credits and rebate programs to cover out-of-pocket expenses for those affected by the storm that are not covered insurance.
In the short term, Nenshi said he’d like to see programming brought forward to help residents navigate the insurance process and provide assistance to those with the greatest financial need.
“It’s hard to deal with insurance companies and if you’re English is a second language or you’re worried about the pandemic and your family hasn’t been able to come back because they’re stuck in India; I mean these are very serious problems,” Nenshi said.
“The very beginning is just helping people navigate the system before it gets too cold to be able to make those emergency repairs.”
Councillor Carra, who represents Ward 9, an area of the city that was deeply impacted by the floods in 2013, said he believes systemic racism has played a role in the challenges northeast residents have faced in accessing support.
“It (is) undeniable that there is a different relationship for one third of our population, and I cannot stand by and suggest that the slow to addressing the issues up here is not apart of that systemic racism,” Carra said.
Sabir reiterated the mayor’s comments and accused the province of ignoring the concerns of residents in northeast Calgary.
“The people we serve, they are struggling. In the middle of a pandemic they were hit with the costliest disaster,” Sabir said.
“We will continue to press this government to take real action before there is snowfall.”
Shortly after the storm, the province declared it an extraordinary event, which allowed for the use of relief funding through the Disaster Recovery Program.
The funding covers uninsurable damages from things like overland flooding during the storm.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said at the time that the government isn’t stepping in to offer money to those with insurable damage to their private property because it doesn’t want to “let the insurance companies off the hook.”
According to a provincial spokesperson, there have been 292 applications for the funding so far.
“Additionally, we are working directly with affected residents and the City of Calgary to ensure companies honour insurance policies with clients, and our understanding is they are working hard with their customers to address their claims,” Municipal Affairs Ministry spokesperson Justin Marshall said in a statement.
“It should be noted that through 15 major hail events under the previous NDP government, not one penny of government funding was given.”
On Monday’s tour, elected officials passed by the home of Louie Adriano, who continues to wait for contractors to schedule a time to fix the damages to his home.
According to Adriano, his insurance company offered more than $20,000 to cover the damages to the siding, windows and doors to his home; he said he remains unsure if the contractors will be able to fix his home before winter.
“During the summer time, we can’t even open our windows because the mosquitoes would come in, and so we had to put in cardboard to keep it closed,” Adriano said.
“It’s cold now so… no more mosquitoes but it’s very cold at night.”
According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, the delay in processing insurance claims from the storm can be attributed to the sheer scale of the storm.
The IBC said that on top of the 70,000 claims from the June storm, insurers are working to process an additional 30,000 claims from four other weather events in Alberta this year.
“IBC recognizes this is a challenging time and insurers are working to move through the claims as quickly as possible,” IBC western vice president Celyeste Power said in a statement.
“With an event of this size, there can be delays as there is a significant strain on resources but insurers are working to reduce and eliminate delays wherever possible.”