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Rebuilding, repairing houses after wildfires will take time, experts say

Jan 04, 2024Jan 04, 2024

Rebuilding housing in the province can start once the immediate crisis of tackling wildfires is over, says the president of the Construction Association of Nova Scotia.

But Duncan Williams, whose own home was damaged in the Halifax-area wildfire, said the process of rebuilding will take time.

Wildfires in Nova Scotia have damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes, most in the Halifax-area, and displaced thousands of people.

Williams said the home construction sector was already under pressure because of labour shortages.

He said his industry would work with government and communities to "make sure that people are back in homes as soon as humanly possible."

He said many trades were already stretched. He said solutions will need to be found to ensure there are enough qualified people to do the repairs and rebuilding.

"The reality is we're gonna need every hand on deck that we can get," Williams said. "If there is anybody out there that's able to help in some way, there's going to be a role for them to play."

There will be a need for temporary and modular housing during the rebuilding process, Williams said.

In his May 31 letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seeking federal assistance, Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston requested that costs be shared evenly between Ottawa and the province for modular housing.

The request also included access to underutilized military housing for "displaced individuals while rebuilding takes place."

Additionally, Houston asked the prime minister for skilled tradespeople from the military and federal agencies and departments to assist the private sector through the Construction Association of Nova Scotia.

Amanda Dean, the Atlantic vice-president of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, said she has spoken to insurance companies. She said the rebuilding process will not be quick in a region still dealing with the aftermath of post-tropical storm Fiona.

"Contractors, the availability of labour, even the available availability of building supplies, has been tough, and some of those claims remain open," Dean said.

With files from Paul Palmeter