Homeowners who were hit by the billion-dollar hailstorm in Calgary’s northeast could be getting help with their property taxes.
Ward 5 Councillor George Chahal’s hail relief notice of motion would see residents apply to have their 2020 property taxes deferred to Dec. 31, 2021 without penalty.
The program would be “designed in the spirit and intent of the city’s compassionate property tax penalty relief program,” according to the motion.
In July, the Insurance Bureau of Canada said the storm caused $1.2 billion in insured damages, making it the fourth-most-costly insured natural disaster in Canada’s history.
City administration estimates 2,200 properties in the neighbourhoods affected by the June 13 hailstorm have overdue property taxes totalling $5.5 million.
If those taxes aren’t paid until the end of 2021, the city would normally penalize the homeowners $850,000-$900,000.
Michael Perkins, the city’s tax manager, says a quick estimate pegs the investment opportunity cost to the city on those overdue taxes would be about $140,000.
“At 2,200 properties to give some relief at $138,000-$140,000, it seems like it’s the simplest thing we can do,” Ward 12 Councillor Shane Keating told council.
“We’re talking 2,200 homes that are struggling and we will get the funds eventually, because it’s not a forgiveness; it’s a deferral.”
Administration is expected to provide an analysis of the program along with a list of properties that qualify for the program by the third quarter of 2021.
During the council meeting, Ward 14 Councillor Peter Demong wondered what area MLAs were doing to help their constituents.
“I know all of my provincial MLAs have been advocating the best they can and the opposition has obviously taken this up,” Chahal said. “The government MLAs and the minister have been advocating with their colleagues to get further support for us, but to no avail.
“Councillor Demong, I believe this is abrogation of provincial responsibility and complete neglect.”
In a statement, Chahal said it’s “unfortunate” that city council is shouldering this burden.
“Unlike other levels of government, we will not request that our residents call the Red Cross or other non-profit organizations when in need, although we are infinitely grateful for the support charitable organizations have provided.”
Rajan Sawhney — MLA for Calgary-North East and minister of community and social services — said more than 600 Calgarians have called or emailed her office looking for assistance immediately following the hailstorm, all with differing needs and concerns.
The minister said her and her office had been able to connect many citizens with civil society organizations on a case by case basis. But none were looking for financial relief.
“The primary and predominant issue was with insurance companies — in terms of navigating through the process, and in terms of getting insurance companies to be more responsive and in terms of getting the adjusters to give an estimate that was palatable to homeowners,” Sawhney told Global News.
“We know that the pocketbooks of Albertans are constrained across the province — that’s a reality,” the minister acknowledged.
“But from a government perspective, we did announce a disaster recovery program that does provide funding for those families who experienced overland flooding, because that’s not readily covered by insurance companies.”
The minister said she had been in constant contact with the Insurance Bureau of Canada and insurance companies like TD Insurance, getting assurances that the companies would improve their service to homeowners. Sawhney also said the provincial government would be willing to step in if insurance companies weren’t acting in good faith.
“The premier has been very clear that he expects the insurance companies to hold up their end of the bargain, to put it in layman’s terms,” she said. “The superintendent of insurance with the government of Alberta has also issued a letter to all insurance companies asking them again to make sure that they operate within the legal realm that they are required to.”
Sawhney said she welcomes any northeast residents to contact her office with ongoing concerns about insurance following the hailstorm.
Chahal has also set up a hailstorm hotline at 587-604-9880.
–with files from The Canadian Press