Canada

City of Merritt unveils first range of temporary shelters for flood evacuees

Twenty prefab homes for people displaced by the 2021 floods are set to go on display in Merritt, BC, Friday afternoon.  (City of Merritt - photo credit)

Twenty prefab homes for people displaced by the 2021 floods are set to go on display in Merritt, BC, Friday afternoon. (City of Merritt – photo credit)

Dozens of Merritt, BC residents displaced by the disastrous flooding of November 2021 will be able to move into a row of newly manufactured modular homes as soon as later this month, the southern central community announced Friday afternoon.

The city says it spent part of the province’s $24 million funding to purchase 31 prefab homes for temporary evacuees, with the primary purpose of helping people evacuated due to the flooding and having trouble repairing their homes had.

The municipality adds that it will provide evacuees with 20 modular homes – ranging from two to four bedroom units – and that it opened up the remaining 11 units to applications from all residents last month.

Last fall, the City of Merritt announced the launch of its Transitional Evacuee Manufactured Home Program (TEMHP), which offers affordable modular homes for rental periods of four to 24 months.

The announcement came a year after the southern community of Interior was hit by flooding disasters due to the atmospheric flow event. The city estimated that the disasters damaged more than 600 homes, 300 of which required extensive repairs or demolition.

Maggie McPherson/CBC

Maggie McPherson/CBC

Rent 15% to 30% below market rate

Since the evacuation, the Red Cross has provided assistance to affected households in Merritt, including money for repairs and access to temporary hotel accommodation.

The city says that during the first phase of the transitional housing program, it identified about 130 displaced homeowners or renters who needed help transitioning away from Red Cross support. They were invited to apply to the program by mid-December and 20 applications were accepted thereafter.

The approved applicants are entitled to rent a modular apartment at a rent subsidized by the city of 70 percent of the market value with additional financial support from municipal partners.

Valerie Stacey and her family, who have been displaced by the floods, are scheduled to move into a three-bedroom home and pay a subsidized monthly rent of $1,300.

Stacey says her family was paying $1,200 a month for a four-bedroom unit before the floods, but when she returned to Merritt two months after the floods, the housing market got so expensive that they paid the same amount for an apartment would need one bedroom apartment.

She says her two adult sons have had to live apart from their parents as a result, but now their family can be reunited.

“The boys are going to move back in with us,” she told CBC Radio West.

In phase two, which began last month, the program opened applications to other Merritt residents who were struggling to find affordable housing amid what the city said was near-zero rental vacancy, exacerbated by the 2021 flood.

Successful applicants at this stage can rent modular homes at 85 percent of market value on a first-come, first-served basis, but, unlike evacuees, are not eligible for financial assistance from the city’s municipal partners.

Successful applicants in Phase One may purchase the unit at any time during the 24-month lease, while those in Phase Two will be eligible for the purchase option four months after the commencement of the lease through December 2024.

Merritt Mayor Mike Goetz says the TEMHP is “the first time such a program has ever been created.”

“The City of Merritt is creating a groundbreaking new transitional housing program that is sure to set the standard for future flood planning,” he said in a written statement.

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