Quebec to allow rebuilding of flood-damaged Gatineau homes

Some Gatineau residents whose homes were destroyed by flooding last spring will be allowed to rebuild after Quebec's ministry of municipal affairs granted the city an exemption to a provincial law that governs rebuilding in flood zones. But some homeowners say it's too late to help them.

But some residents say the announcement is too late, and the cost of rebuilding prohibitive

Marcel Theriault tore down the house his father built, but doesn't expect to rebuild. He said provincial benefits are unlikely to cover the costs of rebuilding in a way that meets the rules for a flood zone. (Amanda Pfeffer)

Quebec's ministry of municipal affairs will allow the rebuilding of some homes destroyed by flooding in Gatineau last spring, but some of those affected say it's too late to be of help.

While provincial legislation would normally stop homes from being rebuilt after demolition in zero-to-20-year flood zones, Gatineau council voted last month to ask the province for a waiver for some areas.

Monday, Gatineau's mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin announced the exemption had been granted for homes in the area of Jacques-Cartier and Moreau streets, as well as on and around Riviera Street and Hurtubise Boulevard. 

"We didn't want neighbourhoods with a lot of holes in them," said Pedneaud-Jobin at the news conference. "We'd like to preserve a sense of community, and with those new rules, I think we will."

A military vehicle drives along a flooded street as waters breach the Gatineau River and flood a neighbourhood in Gatineau last May. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Move too late, say some homeowners

But not all those affected by the flooding were leaping at the opportunity to rebuild.

"Seriously? Too late," was Isabelle Plante's take on the announcement.

Plante's family members previously occupied half a dozen houses on Saint-François-Xavier Street. They've all moved away and she doesn't expect they'll return.

"It's a ghost town now. A ghost street," Plante said.

Plante surmised that at least a few homes on the street could have been saved had the announcement come sooner, though the cost of rebuilding would likely have been a barrier regardless.

Flood waters surrounded homes on Hurtubise Boulevard in Gatineau last spring. The province now says it will allow homeowners on and around that street and three others to rebuild following demolition.

Marcel Theriault also has no plans to rebuild. The house his father built on Saint-François-Xavier Street more than 60 years ago was being demolished on the very day of the announcement.

"It's very painful," he said. "We're losing the whole neighbourhood."

The family tore down the home so they could qualify for government benefits to buy a new place to live, but had the announcement come sooner, Theriault said they might have opted to instead retain some of the original structure.

"Too late," said Theriault of Monday's news. "We had to move on, we couldn't wait for winter to arrive."