A map of properties subject to full and partial buyouts is available on the Boundary Flood Recovery website. (Screenshot from Boundary Flood Recovery)

Grand Forks mulls in-kind options to support flood buyout residents

$6.6 million difference between pre and post-flood value for Grand Forks buyouts

Grand Forks is mulling its options for in-kind support for residents subject to flood-related buyouts after it was determined that many homeowners would not be receiving enough compensation to move and establish themselves within the city.

“The bottom line is that half of the households would receive less than $100,000 for their property,” a city council request for decision for July 15 reads, noting that 24 households would get under $60,000, based on the current market values of their properties.

Estimated buyout prices for flood-affected properties in Grand Forks range from $20,000 to $438,000, according to the city document. Even greater than the spread between top and bottom in the purchase range, though, is the discrepancy between the pre and post-flood value for all properties combined: they are estimated to have lost a total of $6.6 million in last year’s disaster.

According to the July 15 meeting agenda, the average loss for property owners subject to buyouts sits at $79,000 per land holding. A map of all properties affected is available on the Boundary Flood Recovery website.

“Receiving this amount of compensation would not enable property owners to replace their dwelling with something similar in the area and in many cases is less than what is owed on a mortgage,” the agenda reads.

Mayor Brian Taylor suggested that provincial and federal governments “are getting nervous about how far out on a limb to go to set precedent,” noting that situations like what happened to Grand Forks last May are bound to occur more often in other places across the country.

As a result, council is looking at how the city can support people who may be left well short of their pre-flood asset values, or stuck with uncertainty about where they can afford to move after being bought out.

One option is for city staff to triage cases to determine what sort of in-kind supports could be offered to different property owners.

The request for decision suggests that a household with under $100,000 in assets and under $3,000 in total income could be offered the most support beyond the DMAF money allocated for buyouts.

Reserving spaces at the 19th Street affordable housing complex is another avenue being considered by the city for some residents. Other options include encouraging the construction of more rental units in the city through tax incentives, offering city land and subsidizing moving costs for manufactured and mobile homes that can be relocated, and creating a land co-op to cut up-front costs for people forced to move.

Because the city expected to hear about the provincial and federal grants by the end of May, it had crafted a rollout plan that would have started as early as July. However, the funding announcement came nearly a month later than anticipated, knocking home appraisals and actual buyout offers into the fall.

Discussion on in-kind solutions slated for July 15

Both the buyout process and types of in-kind supports being considered will be discussed at a committee-of-the-whole meeting on July 15 at 9 a.m. at city hall.

Residents who are going to be bought out are meeting on July 11 to develop a strategy on how to proceed. City and Boundary Flood Recovery staff will also be attending to hear concerns and answer questions.

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