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254 Alberta flood victims to get government home buyouts

Floodway compensation will affect people in Calgary, High River, Medicine Hat, Bragg Creek, Black Diamond and Turner Valley

Posted: Aug 22, 2013 1:49 PM ET

Last Updated: Aug 22, 2013 3:52 PM ET

The Alberta government will offer to buy and tear down about 250 homes that were severely damaged by massive flooding in June.

More than 14,500 homes were damaged when the floodwaters hit, government officials said.

Homeowners in primarily six Alberta communities will be eligible for compensation worth the total value of their property according to their last tax assessment, provincial officials said Thursday.

"We simply cannot encourage development in floodways. It is just too dangerous and represents an ongoing risk to all taxpayers," said Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths, who announced the policy in Bragg Creek.

"We want to give homeowners the choice to relocate to safer areas."

No rebuilding on those sites will be allowed once the houses are torn down, the province said.

The province estimates the floodway relocation compensation will be offered to 102 homeowners in High River, 50 in Calgary, 57 in Medicine Hat, 36 in Bragg Creek and nine in Black Diamond and Turner Valley.

Could cost province $175M

If every eligible homeowner takes the province up on its offer, it will cost taxpayers $175 million.

The deal doesn't apply to businesses and it leaves out two municipalities — Drumheller and Fort McMurray — where the floodway covers much of the communities. The province said it would be too costly to buy out everyone there, but it is still working to come up with a plan for those areas.

Homeowners who chose not to relocate will still qualify for support from the Disaster Recovery Program to repair their properties. However, in the event of another flood, they will not be eligible again.

The deadline to apply for the buyout is Nov. 30. Only primary residences are eligible.

Applicants who are challenging their 2013 tax assessments will have 30 days after their assessment is finalized to make a decision.

The province will pay for all remediation and demolition of properties purchased under the program.

But the deal is not being offered to Hampton Hills residents in High River, which was arguably the hardest-hit community in Alberta.

People there have pleaded to be bought out, but no such luck.

"I know some of them are frustrated and they don't want to be there, [but] they have the option of rebuilding and moving if they like," Griffiths said.

Wildrose criticizes flood zone mapping

Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith said she doesn't agree with the Redford government’s handling of the flood zone maps, which many say are out-of-date.

"The flood mapping is not accurate," she said.

"You're going to have people who technically qualify because they are in the floodway that weren't damaged at all. Meanwhile, people who've lost everything — who were the most damaged — don't actually qualify for a program to be moved. So I think the government has made a mistake."

She said the first step should have been taking a look at the community-wide flood mitigation measures that they would put in place so they could limit the number of people who were in an actual floodway and had to be moved, and then redraw the flood zone maps.

"I think they are going to end up seeing there is still a lot of frustration and a lot of confusion," Smith said.

The Wildrose Party also said in the past that the government should put a cap on compensation, so owners of multimillion-dollar homes only receive assistance for the cost of a normal home.

Griffiths said the province is not planning on capping compensation because it wants to encourage people to move, and if homeowners did not get fair value for their house then they would not relocate.

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