Grand Forks City Council voted Monday to go back to the federal and provincial governments to ask for more money to put towards buying out flood-affected properties in North Ruckle, after residents pushed back after learning that they would be paid at a 2019 valuation for their homes, many of which have lost tens of thousands in value through flood damage.
The unanimous vote to write letters to the appropriate ministries and arrange a meeting with Mike Farnworth, the B.C. minister of public safety in September comes after residents have repeatedly insisted that the Grand Forks buyout case is a first in the province and thus ought to set the example for future buyout events in B.C.
“The concern of course within that community is not only them and their financial bottom line,” said Coun. Chris Moslin, who suggested the idea to his colleagues, “but also the setting of a precedent that would perhaps further protect homeowners facing a disaster.”
“There’s no harm in asking again, and again and again,” said Coun. Neil Krog, endorsing the idea.
Until now, city staff had said that the federal government’s granting policy for disaster buyouts only covers post-event prices. However, other provinces have been able to supplement those payments to offer pre-flood values.
In New Brunswick after last May’s flooding, the province offered buyouts “in cases where structural damages exceed 80 per cent of the appraised value of the property,” according to the City of Saint John. Buyout values are being based on “fair market value based on a pre-event real estate appraisal,” or a recent property tax assessment.
Quebec set a cap at $200,000 in a voluntary buyout program for Gatineau-area residents who experienced two massive floods in the space of three years.
Property appraisals are scheduled to be done this fall for properties in the mandatory buyout area in North Ruckle.
In the meantime, residents and city staff have held meetings to discuss other ways that the city can ease the financial burden of having to leave the neighbourhood and find suitable homes elsewhere.
At a committee-of-the-whole meeting Monday, flood recovery manager Graham Watt said that one quarter of applicants for the 19th Street affordable housing units indicated that they were flood-affected individuals.