Greg Hoffart grew up in High River. In 1995, his family lost its farm to flooding there. He still has friends and family there, so when the flooding hit, he returned home to help with the re-build.
“There are residents who are falling through the cracks,” he told me over the phone last week. “The cloud of bureaucracy and the policies written by insurnce companies have created loopholes where people are not receiving any funding. They’re siting outside their homes. They’ve got nowhere to live. They’re living in a makeshift out of town where they’re left in limbo or financial purgatory hoping someone comes through with a miracle and gives them money.”
Hoffart is the owner of Tree Construction. A carpenter by trade, he looks to build homes that are environmentally friendly and sustainable. In Revelstoke, Tree Construction’s most recognizable projects are the eco-homes on Eighth Street in Southside.
In High River, after meeting with people unable to rebuild their homes, he has launched the Sustainable River, a crowd-funding campaign that aims to raise money through online donations. “With the hopes we can amass a large following of like-minded individuals that would like to see a town rebuilt sustainably and to come up with some solutions to mitigate against floods rather than continually fix and repair all the cosmetics,” he said.
He has worked with Jean-Marc Laflamme, a local social-media marketing expert, to launch a website and a page on the website FundRazr. Still in its infancy, the campaign has raised $750 of an initial goal of $250,000.
High River was the community most impacted by the June floods that devastated Alberta. All 13,000 of the town’s residents were evacuated after the Highwood River flooded and it remained off-limits for weeks. Now, people are looking to rebuild, using insurance money or government assistance – both of which are slow in coming. The website includes stories from residents waiting for funding so they can start rebuilding their homes.
Hoffart says that the longer money takes to come in, the more expensive it will be to rebuild people’s homes.
“As they’re rotting, the costs to fix, repair and replace become so much more,” he said. “The compensation that would be provided by an insurance company isn’t even close to the amount people are actually going to need to get back into their homes.”
Hoffart wants to rebuild people’s homes in a sustainable manner. Mostly, that means making them able to withstand serious flooding. That could mean adding extra water proofing to the exterior of a home, or installing self-priming pumps that would pump out water if the water inside the home reaches a certain level.
He brought up the idea of passive survivability, which means to build a home so that it can survive in extreme events for two weeks without anyone being there.
“There’s no perfect fix. It’s on a case to case basis,” he said. “People who got groundwater need a different solution than people flooded from overland water.”
Hoffart said sustainable building was a passion of his and he plans on attending Boston Architectural College to received a Masters degree in sustainable design. “It’s a passion of my own to encourage people to do the right thing when it comes time to fixing and repairing their homes,” he said.
The Sustainable River campaign is just beginning. The $250,000 fundraising goal is just a start, Hoffart said. He said the website is being developed to include things like a cost calculator, where people can find out how much work costs. He said they will also show what work is being done and what work is in store so people know where the money is being spent.
“People can go in, look and see where the funds are going and we can have success stories as progress moves forward,” he said.
For more information, or to make a donation, visit www.sustainableriver.ca.