Grand Forks is offering a land swap deal for residents who own property within the buyout area proposed in the City’s flood mitigation plan, according to a mailer sent to affected residents this week.
The trade offer is the latest of in-kind options that the city has proposed to more than 100 property owners, who learned in June that they would be bought out of their lands at “current market value” – values that have been significantly impacted by the May 2018 flood that hit the Boundary region.
“We heard property owners loud and clear when they said current fair market buyout payments from senior governments based on post-flood values would leave them far short of what they needed to secure affordable housing,” said Grand Forks mayor Brian Taylor in a press release. “This option will help them get payments at or closer to pre-flood values, meaning they can invest more in their new homes.”
Over the next several months, the city will be hiring a consultant to develop a plan for land acquisition and begin negotiations with affected residents. Under the project’s proposed timeline, buyouts and assistance with moving will happen from now through 2021, with negotiations and payments beginning as early as December. Infrastructure repairs and construction will stretch from 2020 to 2023.
The mailer sent to affected residents proposes a plan to offer land and title for residential lots in town – one solution that Grand Forks has settled on to try and compensate landowners beyond what would be possible with the estimated $12 to $14 million available to enact the full buyout plan.
After news came in June that Grand Forks would have just over $50 million in federal, provincial and municipal funds to implement a flood recovery and mitigation plan, residents on the buyout list learned that their properties would be evaluated at “current market value” – their values post-flood. Since then, flood recovery staff have held meetings with residents to try and come up with in-kind options to help bring buyout values up closer to pre-flood values. An estimate from city staff estimates an approximate $6.6 million gap between pre- and post-flood values for all land required under the flood recovery plan.
Though the City proposed other in-kind options to attempt to lessen the burden of moving – such as supporting moving homes and offering land lease agreements – property owners responded by saying that such options would do little to compensate for the discrepancies in paid value for their homes.
According to a survey sent out by the city to residents whose properties are subject to buyouts, 30 per cent of respondents indicated that they plan on staying in the Grand Forks area, 57 per cent said they were uncertain, and 10 per cent indicated that they had already left. One quarter of survey recipients submitted their answers.
Among the respondents, nearly 30 per cent indicated that they held mortgages that likely cost more than the current. value of their homes.
“This in-kind support is over and above the significant funding made possible by senior governments,” said Graham Watt, Manager of Strategic Initiatives & Flood Recovery, about the latest land trade offer. “We are also enabling other in-kind options such as coordinating and supplementing moving costs for homes, and seeking partners and funding for new housing developments targeted for affected property owners.”
The trade offer is part of several projects in the city’s flood recovery and mitigation plan, that includes major infrastructure projects to reinforce riverbanks, build dikes and return portions of designated neighbourhoods to the natural floodplain of the Kettle River.
The City did not specify which lots would be available in the land swap process.
Residents can ask questions about the buyout and other recovery efforts at the City’s Resilience Centre (7261 Riverside Dr.) and can schedule appointments with program manager Graham Watt by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Meetings will be available by-appointment until regular drop-in hours are set.