A group of property owners looking to return home are facing another setback in their rebuild.
The Hillview Park Condominium, located in Abasand, was one of many neighbourhoods devastated by the wildfire.
The site has been in limbo for months as the condo board is facing a lawsuit from the previous company hired to reconstruct the complex.
According to an email sent to Mix News, the board approved a new special assessment of more than $3.7 million to cover costs not covered by insurance. This includes paying contractors and sub-contractors.
The property owners are being asked to contribute anywhere around $16,500 to $19,500.
“A lot of people haven’t recovered from the first assessment and now they’re sitting on over $50,000 of assessments,” said Sheila Champion, Hillview resident.
They’re being told to pay the payment by November 15, 2018, or interest will be added.
This is the third fee the group has been asked to pay following a $30,000 payment to cover a damage assessment and being charged $20,000 for an information meeting.
These costs are all added on top of mortgage payments and rent for their new spaces as they wait for the rebuild to finish. Hillview resident Beck Benoit says condo fees are also tripling with owners now paying between $750 – $900.
“It’s just gotten worse and worse – more of your money is going out to all of these payments and your racking up debt and running through your savings, you start to make hard decisions about what do I really need to keep my family going.”
Meanwhile, Champion says they’re looking for any help they can get.
“We have families who can’t afford cereal, we have families filing bankruptcy – our education funds are being cashed out, the money families have put away for their children to go to university. It’s not just the future of the current owners, it’s the future of the children of those current owners that are being impacted and it’s not fair – those children didn’t ask for that.”
So far, a number of owners, including Benoit, have filed for bankruptcy.
The rebuild is being scheduled to be finished by August 2019, however, this date seems far-fetched for some of the residents.
Mix News reached out to Hillview but didn’t receive a response.
Potential help could be on the way from the federal government.
Benoit says they were contacted by MP for Fort McMurray – Cold Lake David Yurdiga last week.
They were told a federal representative visited the site.
“What we need is help from the government,” she added. “We need financial help, compensation, something.”
Benoit notes they’ve been told a meeting is being held in Ottawa on Monday to discuss their situation.
The owners are also still asking the provincial government to help.
Service Alberta is in contact with the homeowners, however, they haven’t committed any resources to help.
“Service Alberta keeps saying there’s nothing in the condo act, get a lawyer, so it’s like a slap in the face,” said Champion.
The Alberta Liberals have already demanded the NDP’s step in and fix the problem. MLA for Fort McMurray – Wood Buffalo Tany Yao has also been advocating for the them.
Owners Contemplating Suicide
Benoit notes a letter has been sent to Premier Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau highlighting the nightmare they’ve endured for two-years.
It also details peoples mental health as some have even considered suicide.
“They’re saying to us this is the only way out for my family,” Benoit said.
The four-page letter includes multiple anonymous statements from Hillview residents. Many describe the financial burden the situation has put them in, while some discuss ending their lives.
“We can’t take it any more. There is no end and the condo board has lost complete control of this rebuild. If my life ended now, my mortgage would be paid off. It’s terrifying that this is what I, and many others, are hoping for to save our families,” the letter read.
Benoit believes this is turning into a life and death situation.
“I feel like that should move every government official in Alberta and the federal government as well to realize they need to do something right now, people are dying now – that’s where we’re at.”