Two years after Dawn Harp’s Grand Forks house was swamped with water during severe flooding, she accepted the city’s buyout offer.
She said she didn’t feel like she had a lot of choice as she watched the rising river this spring, worried her home would flood again.
“They play to your mental state,” Harp said. “Here, sign your contract for flooding, and if you don’t sign it by, you know, when it floods, your house appraisal is nothing. We’re going to re-evaluate you, and you’re going to get less money now. So people signed.”
After the 2018 flood, Harp said she sunk extra money into repairing her house because she was planning to take things like her new windows and doors for a replacement home she’s currently building.
“The city told us, in the beginning, to put our money back into it,” Harp said. “Save our receipts, and we would get back the money or have the rights to take stuff out.”
Harp said officials later rolled back their promise offering residents salvage rights, mostly only allowing people to take things from around the yard like fencing and sheds.
“I think we were ripped off,” she said.
Harp said she’s now shocked to learn that the city is planning to rent out some of the houses acquired under the buyout program.
“I was disgusted. I didn’t know what to think because they’ve screwed us around and told us so many promises that have turned into lies,” Harp said.
“I think I should get the rent money. They didn’t give us what they told us they were going to give us, so how can they reap benefits back from our homes,” she added.
The city estimates that renting out approximately eight to ten homes for the next eight months could bring in $30,000 to $40,000 in revenue.
Grand Forks Mayor Brian Taylor said that offering up the homes as temporary rentals could help alleviate the housing crunch.
“Nobody that’s in there now in North Ruckle will be moved out in order to make room for anyone moving in,” Taylor said.
“These are houses where the owners have taken a complete and final payout and the properties are already in our hands.”
Grand Forks was suffering from a housing shortage even before the floods, he added.
“This is meant to benefit and address the community need for housing, and our need to look after our assets there,” Taylor said.
“Even things like insurance if the houses are vacant, vandalism. We need to be really aware of the fact that having empty buildings there is going to cost us more money.”
He also said that residents who wanted to take over and above what is normally taken from a house could have followed a process that involved having those items assessed and then negotiating a payment.
The city plans to return the low-lying neighbourhood to a greenspace and eventually move some of the buyout homes to city land.
However, the property still needs to be serviced before that can be done.