Skip to main content

Eddy Marshall is overwhelmed by the damage to the basement in his High River home.Jordan Verlage/The Canadian Press

The Alberta government is attempting a massive emptying of "floodways" in the southern part of the province by offering homeowners buyouts to relocate.

Up to 254 homes classified as the most at risk of flooding could be bulldozed or moved in what provincial officials believe could become one of the largest-ever Canadian flood-related relocations. Waterlogged homes will be demolished to make way for provincial parks and other public spaces, which would allow for floods and/or high river flows.

Homeowners are being offered a payment equal to their last municipal property-tax assessment. If all those eligible take advantage of the program, the province said, the bill could hit $175-million – an average of about $690,000 per home. That total that has already been factored into Premier Alison Redford's $5-billion rebuilding estimate following the disastrous June floods in which more than 14,500 homes were damaged.

The Alberta government has been under intense pressure to provide timely details of its plan designed to encourage people to move off the "floodways" – zones where river flood-water flows are the deepest, fastest and most destructive, where floods are the most likely to occur and where the government will ban all future building.

Property owners are eligible to have their properties purchased by the government whether their homes were damaged in June or not.

On Thursday, the Alberta government said that homeowners wish to stay in their homes, they will qualify for one-time support from the disaster recovery program to repair or rebuild the house to a basic level – but will not receive the property tax assessed value. If they remain in place, they also will not be eligible for future disaster assistance.

"My anticipation is that there will be very, very few people who will not take the 100-per-cent assessment, take their value, and move to another location – because they will be fully aware that if they've accessed the [disaster assistance funds] to repair their home now, they won't be eligible in the future," said Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths, the lead cabinet minister in the government flood response.

The government estimates there are 102 homeowners in the hard-hit town of High River who will qualify, 50 in Calgary, 57 in Medicine Hat and others in Bragg Creek, Black Diamond and Turner Valley. Only primary residences are eligible, and the program will not apply to Fort McMurray, which was also hit by floods in early June, and Drumheller, where large portions of the communities are located on the floodway.