14 flood-damaged homes are going to auction in High River, Alta.

Fourteen homes in High River, Alta., that have stood empty for the past nine years are finally heading to auction.

Province bought houses after 2013 flood, then town bought them back

One of the properties up for auction backs onto a golf course and the Highwood River. Hundreds of millions of dollars in flood mitigation work has taken place since 2013 to safeguard the town in the event of future floods. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Fourteen homes in High River, Alta., that have stood empty for the past nine years are finally heading to auction.

The rural town south of Calgary was flooded when the Highwood River burst its banks in June 2013, during the worst flood in Alberta's history, submerging roads and homes and forcing evacuations.

The houses and duplexes in Riverside Drive and High View Park were initially bought out as part of the provincial government's flood relocation program and have sat empty ever since. They weren't badly damaged, with most having only flooded basements.

Last year, they were purchased by the Town of High River so they could be sold and inhabited again.

The first round of sealed bid auctions started this week. An open house on Tuesday attracted more than 100 people interested in taking a closer look.

Alicia Hale and her family were in one of the many vehicles cruising by a house up for auction in High River this week. She says picking up a house that may need some TLC is an attractive prospect in a hot housing market. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"House prices are so high right now, so we're thinking it might be a better opportunity to get a house that needs a little work and put in some TLC," said Alicia Hale, who was checking out a house on Riverside Drive.

Cars have been cruising by all week.

"The upstairs are normal, just dated, but the basements are nothing, it's just the studs, so you'd need to put a full basement renovation in," said Hale.

"They're all safe and the town got them up to the standard needed to sell them," Hale added.

As well as potential buyers, neighbours keen to take a look inside and even the home's former owner toured the first house to be auctioned.

The sale of the homes offers some closure for the town and its residents. The town's mayor says the auction ties up one of the last loose ends left after the 2013 flood.

"These homes got stuck in purgatory," said Mayor Craig Snodgrass.

The basement of one home up for auction on Riverfront Drive has been stripped out and needs renovating. The upstairs of the houses are the same as they were left nine years ago. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Snodgrass says $300 million in flood mitigation is now in place to prevent future floods, and the homes are situated in great neighbourhoods.

"We really wanted to make sure to save the homes that have now been protected and that were minimally impacted by the flood. We want to get people living back in these properties," said Snodgrass.

"We purchased them all from the province, and now we'll be selling them back to private ownership. We got it done, finally, nine years later," he said.

"All of us worked our butts off in this town to be able to look back and see what we accomplished, and where we're at today needs to be celebrated, I think," Snodgrass added.

Anyone can bid on a home, or even multiple homes, from young families to developers and property flippers.

The process involves a sealed bid auction. Starting bids range from $211,000 to $364,000 depending on the property.

The sale runs until the end of July.

Information on bidding, including addresses and photos of the homes, can be found on the Town of High River website


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