Canadian Underwriter

Insurers seek federal grants for homeowners to improve basement flood protection

April 21, 2021   by Greg Meckbach

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The industry is pushing to make federal grants available for Canadian homeowners to reduce basement flood risk.

In the fall of 2020, the federal government announced its Greener Homes initiative. When the program rolls out, the plan is to provide up to 700,000 grants of up to $5,000 to help homeowners make energy efficiency retrofits to their homes, such as better insulation.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada has been advocating to have the Greener Homes program expanded from just energy efficiency to include resilience measures such as home improvement projects to reduce basement flood risk, Craig Stewart, IBC’s vice president of federal affairs, told Canadian Underwriter recently.

“We are hopeful that, indeed, there will be resilience measures incorporated when the program launches,” Stewart said in an interview Tuesday.

Stewart made his comment during an interview about the 2021-22 federal budget, tabled Monday in the House of Commons by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Greener Homes was not part of the budget document released Apr. 19, 2021. Stewart was contrasting Greener Homes with a proposal in the recently-released 2021-22 federal budget document. In the 2021-22 budget, the federal government is proposing to make available, through the Canada and Mortgage and Housing Corp., interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to fund projects that increase climate resilience in homes.

The previously-announced Greener Homes initiative, entailing grants of up to $5,000, would be geared more for smaller projects than those envisioned in the CMHC interest-free loans, Stewart suggested.

Raising a home above the flood line and replacing a roof with one more resistant to wildfires are two examples of projects that IBC is hoping would be eligible for CMHC interest-free loans, Stewart said in an interview.

Buying sump pumps, sealing cracks in foundations, and buying backwater valves “would probably be a better fit for the grants program,” Stewart told Canadian Underwriter Tuesday.

Generally, the industry recommends backwater valves as one measure to reduce basement flood risk. Backwater valves are designed to prevent water from flowing up through basement flood drain if a municipal sewer system is overwhelmed by a rain storm. If a pipe has a backwater valve, the water flowing back is supposed to cause the valve to close.

A backwater valve itself may cost about $250, but it needs to be installed by a plumber, said Cheryl Evans, director of the home adaptation program at the Intact Centre for Climate Adaptation. She made the comment during the 2018 launch of the Toronto Home Resilience Pilot Program.

The Intact Centre, a think tank at the University of Waterloo, recommends several measures to reduce basement flood risk. In addition to backwater valves, the Intact Centre recommends that homeowners ensure the downspout from the roof extends at least six feet away from the foundation. Also, if the home has a sump pump, the homeowner should make sure the sump pump is actually working and that it has a backup power source.


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