The Wood Buffalo Housing & Development Corporation (WBHDC) announced today it has cleared all its rental accommodations for re-occupation by residents displaced by wildfire, with the exception of seniors’ accommodations. WBHDC has completed the cleaning of the common areas in all its buildings including all walls, ceilings and carpets, HVAC systems and air scrubbing, and replacement of insulation in buildings where it was required. Sample data tested by our environmental consultant identifies ‘minimal concern for occupant health and safety.”I want to commend WBHDC staff who returned to Fort McMurray early, our insurance adjuster, Crawford Canada, and the more than 350 clean-up contractors that have enabled us to open our doors ahead of schedule,” said Maggie Farrington, Chair of WBHDC’s Board.
“The wildfire evacuation and displacement of Fort McMurray residents has been tremendously stressful for everyone,” said Greg Elsasser, WBHDC’s Acting President & CEO. “Evacuees began to return to Fort McMurray as early as June 1 under the Province’s voluntary re-entry program. It was imperative that WBHDC accelerate its schedule to enable tenants to return as soon as possible, and I’m very pleased to be able to open our doors today.”
WBHDC removed refrigerators from all its units due to bacteriological contamination. Though the rental units are now available for the return of tenants, replacement refrigerators — which were ordered several weeks ago — have not yet been delivered to Fort McMurray.
“We will get new refrigerators into every occupied unit as soon as they arrive and crews are able to install them,” said Elsasser.
With the re-opening of its buildings, WBHDC will lift its rent relief program effective June 18. Rent paid for the month of May will be applied as a credit to tenant accounts. Rent for June will be pro-rated.
WBHDC’s seniors’ accommodations in Fort McMurray — Athabasca House, Legion Manor and Rotary House Lodge — will not re-open until later in June. WBHDC is working with the Government of Alberta to ensure that seniors and others who receive support from third-party agencies not return to Fort McMurray until after the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre has re-opened and the necessary supports are in place.
WBHDC’s wildfire losses were limited but some residents have lost their homes. WBHDC will ensure tenants who lost their homes have a new home selected from among units that were vacant before the wildfire. In addition, Marshall House, WBHDC’s homeless shelter, was also damaged by an apartment fire next door. At this time, it is unknown when Marshall House will re-open.
WBHDC also has a long-standing affordable housing partnership with public sector employers in Wood Buffalo, including all three school divisions, the Northern Lights Health Centre/Alberta Health Services, RCMP and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. WBHDC is working with its public sector partners to provide housing for essential service employees who have lost their homes.
Of the 368 units that were vacant before the wildfire, WBHDC has filled over 200 since June 1. Residents who have lost their homes and are seeking new housing in Fort McMurray should visit WBHDC’s website at www.wbhadc.ca for more information about how to apply for WBHDC rental housing.
Tenants may call (780) 743-4140 for more information about returning to their rental unit, post-fire cleaning efforts, refrigerator replacement or any other matter related to their tenancy.
“The Fort McMurray wildfire disaster is unprecedented in Canadian history,” said Farrington. “WBHDC was created to make it easier for people to call Wood Buffalo home. We will continue to help our tenants, friends and neighbours in the wake of this tragedy to make Fort McMurray their home, one household at a time.”