Emalee Bridger is afraid her house will collapse whenever she hears a creak, feels a vibration, or sees a new crack in a wall.
“Every day I’m scared to be in my house,” said Bridger, who is one of three property owners on Best Avenue with an unstable home.
Her neighbour, Kirsten Soroczka, who lives to the west, agreed there is only so much the pressure that can be put on a house before it comes apart.
“I’m more and more scared every day,” said Soroczka.
Bridger and Soroczka believe their properties are sinking because their homes were built on unstable fill on top of a District of Mission culvert/right of way.
All three families live on the south side of Best Avenue near Cedar Street, and have been trying to work with the District of Mission for the past two years to come up with a settlement. The lack of progress has forced the families to seek court action, said Bridger.
The families are alleging the properties were not properly inspected and the homes should not have been approved for development.
Bridger and her partner Scott Geisser, began noticing their house shift in 2010. The floors tilted, walls cracked and door frames were skewed. There were voids in the crawl space. But it wasn’t until two years later they learned their house was build on a statutory right of way registered to the District of Mission.
Bridger and Geisser discovered the culvert at the land titles office, and said the district didn’t have it on its file when they investigated the property prior to purchasing it in 2006.
In the Soroczka house, bedroom walls on the east side of the house have pulled away from the floor by about two inches even though new flooring was put in a few years ago.
Soroczka noticed the changes in her house in 2011, most notably a dramatic drop in the floor of her garage and the corresponding drop on the floor of her daughter’s bedroom above.
“You can literally put your hand under the adjoining wall,” said Soroczka.
The families contacted the district in 2012 and allowed engineers to conduct numerous tests on their properties to determine what’s in the soil and to locate the culvert.
According to Geisser, crews dug last fall, but the culvert wasn’t discovered until this past spring about six feet away from where the drawing indicated.
“An engineering report said the culvert was decommissioned,” said Geisser, who suspects it has collapsed, creating a “sink hole” underneath his house and causing his neighbours’ house to shift toward his. He plans to uncover the culvert and determine its condition.
“The three families are getting more frustrated,” said Soroczka, who would like the district to take responsibility and buy out their homes.
“These home are not liveable, and we can’t sell it to anybody either because of the instability of the fill,” said Soroczka. “They can’t be rehabilitated.”
“The district is cooperating fully with the homeowners and has conducted a full investigation under the guidance of our insurer and appropriate experts,” said Michael Boronowski, spokesperson for the District of Mission.
As the matter is before the courts, Boronowski declined to provide further comment.