N.W.T. flood victims waiting until 2022 for replacement homes

·3 min read
An aerial view of the flooding in Fort Simpson in May 2021. (Christine Horesay - image credit)
An aerial view of the flooding in Fort Simpson in May 2021. (Christine Horesay - image credit)

Fort Simpson and Jean Marie River residents who lost their homes in the flood this summer will receive replacement homes in 2022 instead of this year.

Mike Westwick, a communications advisor for the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA), told CBC News the delay was necessary in order to get better quality homes for residents.

"The choices for replacements came down to basic manufactured homes, which could be delivered by the manufacturer by winter, or manufactured homes better designed for arctic conditions and allowing for customizations," he wrote in an email. Customizations could include things like colour choices, flooring and wood finishes.

The N.W.T. government has had temporary housing in place for people in Fort Simpson and Jean Marie River since late August.

The flood that swept through the area in May forced evacuations in both communities, as well as in Hay River, Fort Good Hope, Aklavik and Little Buffalo River near Fort Resolution.

The territorial government announced in June that it would replace private homes damaged beyond repair with basic manufactured homes, and raise or relocate homes to prevent flood damage in the future. It is also covering repair costs for flood victims who don't have an insurance plan.

In Fort Simpson, the government is replacing eight homes and repairing 11; and in Jean Marie River, the government is replacing six homes and repairing 10.

Nine homes in Fort Good Hope are also undergoing repairs.

Repairs are still expected to wrap up by November in these three communities, despite delays caused by a recent outbreak of COVID-19 in Fort Good Hope.

Westwick said materials are already on-site in Fort Good Hope, and since the COVID-19 situation has calmed in that community, repairs are on track again.

Not all homes being replaced

Westwick said the government altered its disaster assistance policy to allow for full repairs and replacements of residences that were private and primary homes.

He described it as an "extraordinary move meant to meet the extraordinary circumstances of these flood," and as the right thing to do.

But rental properties don't meet the criteria for replacement.

One Fort Simpson homeowner says that means he isn't getting the support he needs.

Dennis Nelner says his rental home suffered catastrophic damages during the flood, as did other homes on his street.

"I've lost everything. My wife and I, our entire investment is completely gone," he said. He's still paying the mortgage on that home.

Submitted by Dennis Nelner
Submitted by Dennis Nelner

Westwick said MACA can't provide information on individual situations for privacy reasons, but that the N.W.T. government's disaster assistance policy "is designed to get the necessities back to pre-flood conditions," and isn't meant to replace insurance.

"Owners of income-generating properties should endeavour to get insurance which could cover potential risks in their area," he wrote.

He noted those owners are still eligible to apply for small business support, which provides for coverage for 80 per cent of damages not covered by insurance, up to $100,000.

Nelner said the amount he qualifies for under that business funding won't cover the cost of demolishing and rebuilding his home. Although he had home insurance, it didn't cover flooding damage.

He said he feels like he is being revictimized.

"They say they're helping, but mine's going to be the only property on that street that's derelict and abandoned, because my wife and I can't afford to rebuild that property."

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