St. Lazare homeowners disappointed with town’s refusal to help compensate foundation work


PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK

St. Lazare resident Joanne Ackland, whose house has foundation problems, said she would like the current town administration take a more proactive approach to help offset a portion the $70,000 cost that she and co-owner Stéphane Robin will have to incur to have foundation stabilized.

A St. Lazare couple’s dream of home ownership on Rue Champêtre has turned into a bittersweet and expensive experience as Joanne Ackland and Stéphane Robin are currently awaiting stabilization work to be undertaken on their foundation.

They were the first couple to have purchased a house in the new residential subdivision in 2004 which is located in the District 3 area bounded by Chemin Ste. Angelique, Rue Brazeau and Rue Champêtre.

Ackland said since it was a brand new housing development, they assumed that the developers and home builders would have done the necessary preliminary work to ensure the foundations of all the houses were solid.

The couple eventually began to spot small insignificant cracks in the basement, and at one point they were reassured by contractors who were checking the insulation in their house, that there was nothing to be concerned about and that many houses similar issues, said Ackland.

Things changed dramatically in 2013 when problems became more evident throughout the house. That’s when Ackland and Robin realized they had a major problem because were unable to open doors and windows in certain parts of the house.

Attempts made by the couple to contact town officials to have someone address the issue went mostly unanswered until Ackland’s father encouraged her to write a Letter to the Editor at Your Local Journal describing the situation.

According to Ackland, the letter resulted in Mayor Robert Grimaudo personally meeting with the couple to discuss the situation and to determine how the town might be able to help. When Ackland later followed-up with the mayor, she said Grimaudo’s tone had changed and he apparently shifted the responsibility of the home purchase back onto the couple by saying they should have done their due diligence by having had a land inspection done before they purchased their home.

Now Ackland and Robin say they are looking at an additional expenditure of about $70,000 to redo their foundation and make other modifications to the house including landscaping, and replacing some doors and windows. While the contractor who built the house has provided some compensation, the couple will have to absorb most of the cost to repair their foundation.

“After all the years we spent paying down our mortgage, when you have to add the cost of all this to your current mortgage, it’s almost like you’re starting over again,” said Ackland. “I don’t think the town should have given out permits if there was a risk involved. I also feel it isn’t right for the mayor not to address this issue because it happened during a previous administration.”

Ackland and Robin also raised the issue of their foundation problems during the January 12 council meeting and called on Mayor Robert Grimaudo and the town’s administration to come up with some of sort of compensation program to help homeowners defray the cost of the foundation stabilization work.

Grimaudo told the couple that the town by itself cannot do anything to provide financial assistance and that inquiries made to the provincial government indicates there are no current subsidy programs available for foundation work.

In response to a question during the meeting from Robin about why some municipalities had provided their residents with financial assistance to help offset the cost of having to redo foundations, Grimaudo replied that those subsidy programs that were provided by the provincial government no longer exist.

“The nuance that is very important to make is of the one-third of the subsidy that the municipality provided, it was a direct subsidy that came from the provincial government,” said Grimaudo. “The province provided money through its subsidy program which was then used by the municipalities to help offset the cost of the doing the foundation repairs.

“The reality is that we have zero money coming in from the provincial government to reimburse these people. It would have to come directly from the town’s general coffers,” added Grimaudo.

Apparently, the town cannot even apply directly to the province to get money for foundation work.

“We cannot apply for a penny,” Grimaudo said. “We can only apply for programs if any are available and as it stands now, there are zero programs available for this type of subsidy help. As I said during the last council meeting, we will continue to search for solutions just as we’re doing for Chaline Valley.”

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