Rigaud offers housing solutions to flood victims as cold weather approaches

With the weather turning colder and some owners of flooded homes still waiting for inspection reports, Rigaud announced Wednesday it will help those families arrange medium and long-term housing.

'What do I do, where do I stay, where do I go?' Flooded homeowner ponders future from hotel room, months later

Nearly 300 homes were flooded in Rigaud, Que., during this spring's floods, and some residents still aren't back home yet. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

With the weather turning colder and some owners of flooded homes still waiting for home inspection reports from the province, the municipality of Rigaud announced Wednesday it will help those families arrange medium and long-term housing.

The city is looking at several options for temporary housing, including renting homes or mobile homes, or buying land.

It's been roughly four months since the overflowing Ottawa River forced many families to abandon their homes in the town about 30 kilometres west of the island of Montreal. 

Nearly 300 properties were flooded, and some of those families are still not able to return home.

Municipal officials say 17 families are still living in hotels. They don't know how many others are staying with friends or relatives.

The town is asking all residents still affected by the floods to call (450) 451-0869, extension 263, to update municipal authorities on their situation.

'Passing the buck'

Rigaud Mayor Hans Gruenwald blamed the province for failing to provide a full portrait of how many families have been displaced by the floods and who is in need of help.

​"What they're doing is not working. So we have to do something else," said Mayor Hans Gruenwald.

A man rows a small boat loaded with belongings down a street in the town of Rigaud, Que. in May. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux responded to the mayor's frustration with optimism. 

"I understand the preoccupation of the mayor. But we're partners. And together we will find the appropriate solution," Coiteux said. 

He said there are plans to set up a public forum in the fall to glean what they've learned from the 2017 floods and what they need to improve upon next time.

Coiteux said the discussion will include municipal authorities, first responders and citizens.

Rigaud resident Sharon Tower said if either the mayor or the province cared as much as they say they do, they'd be doing more to help.

"They're passing the buck back and forth," she said after hearing the mayor's latest action plan. 

'I was rich there'

Tower's waterfront home sits on an acre of land, on Baie Quesnel on the Ottawa River.

It was in seven to 12 centimetres of water during the flooding, and damage was so extensive she and her husband aren't being allowed to move back in.

She said it's been difficult to visit ever since the inspectors gave her that news.

"I was rich there. I watched the baby ducks. Life was glorious," she said.

Rigaud resident Sharon Tower said she’s not allowed back into her home, which had from three to five inches of water in it during the flooding. (CBC)

Now, she and her husband are living in an inn.

The government is offering to buy them out, but it will only give them what they paid for the home 15 years ago.

She said they had just finished doing renovations on the home not long before the floods hit. 

"I told them: 'You will not make me poor. I've lived in paradise. I had a beautiful house. You are not going to make me poor. That cannot happen.'"

She said she hasn't gotten much help from the province nor from the municipality. While Gruenwald blames the province for the delays, she says the municipality isn't moving any faster.

Tower likened the town's lodging plans to "putting a Band-Aid on a bad situation."

"Five months of nothing. They're passing the buck back and forth," she said.

"I can't even buy another house. What do I do, where do I stay, where do I go? … I'm ready to retire in a year, and now I have to leave with nothing."      

With files from Jaela Bernstien