The Fort McMurray wildfires forced an estimated 88,000 people from their homes and resulted in a total of $9.5 billion in damages.
All told, the fires destroyed 2,400 buildings – many of which were homes – and 665 work camps.
To say the impact was devastating would be an understatement.
But just over a year later, the scrappy market is bouncing back.
“The rebuild has begun in earnest. So far, one third of the buildings lost in the 2016 wildfires have begun reconstruction,” Tim Gensey, market analyst with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, said. “Additional workers from around Alberta are expected to assist in the rebuild, reducing vacancy rates. The rebuild is expected to last three to four years.”
One-third (844) of all destroyed residential units have begun construction, and it’s estimated that only 1% of all destroyed units will not be rebuilt.
The rebuild is currently forecasted to take three to four years to complete.
“Vacancy rates in the purpose-built rental market declined as people who were displaced from their homes took up temporary accommodation,” CMHC said in its latest report. “Vacancy rates are expected to decline further as workers from outside Fort McMurray come to assist with the rebuild. However, vacancy rates will likely remain elevated compared to pre-2014 levels despite workers taking up residence in the rental market.”
Despite the rebuild, the market continues to struggle.
The resale market has slowed and activity is expected to remain low while energy markets look to stabilize.
“Although Fort McMurray’s economy has shown improvement as a result of the rebuild effort, the longer term outlook remains uncertain,” CMHC said. “Unemployment is down, but still above levels seen prior to the steep drop in oil prices. The influence of weak oil prices is particularly evident in the resale market.”
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The rebuild has commenced a year after one formerly hot market was hit by one of the greatest disasters in Canadian history.