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6 months after historic floods, some British Columbians still don't have a home

Tuesday, May 17th 2022, 5:09 pm - Over 1,150 households still displaced, says Emergency Management B.C.

For seven years, Katrina Page took comfort watching the Coquihalla River flow past her home in Hope, B.C., about 150 kilometres east of Vancouver.

Page, 59, recalls days picking fresh fruit from the orchard, listening to the birds sing and swaying in hammocks underneath a forest of firs, balsams and maples, all in the shadow of Hope's mountains.

"It was a perfect place to be," said Page, who now watches excavators plow over sediment and pick up debris from where her home once stood.

The river no longer provides comfort to Page, who lived on the property with her husband and two dogs and where she would often welcome her four children and 12 grandchildren.

In late November, the river ripped through their home and washed it away following historic rainfall and floods that ravaged parts of British Columbia. She and her husband are among more than 1,100 British Columbians still displaced from their homes.

Hope home/Maggie MacPherson/CBC Katrina Page stands on her property in Hope, B.C. Her home was flooded and washed away during last November's torrential rain. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

"We lost everything," said Page, whose one-storey home was mortgage-free.

WAITING FOR ANSWERS

Six months later, Page is living in a trailer on her neighbour's property. And many other flood-displaced residents like her are still waiting for answers about the future of their finances and homes.

The provincial government has distributed nearly $7 million from its Disaster Financial Assistance program. For people like Page, the fund only compensated them for a portion of their losses.

Many people who lost their homes still cannot find affordable housing, including people who rented their homes. Some have called on the province to increase the money available for flood relief.

"There's no way we can afford to stay here," Page said. "So, I don't know where we're going to end up."

Katrina Page/Submitted via CBC Katrina Page's home before the flooding in November 2021. (Katrina Page )

Page says she's still waiting in limbo for a permanent home. Her property did not qualify for flood insurance because they live on a floodplain. The province's Disaster Financial Aid program offers support for uninsurable losses, such as repairing and restoring damaged homes. Depending on the destruction, people can receive up to $300,000.

The province has offered Page compensation from the relief fund. She did not provide the exact amount but said it's "a pittance." She says her property is roughly worth $850,000.

She is hoping the province will pay her the market value for the property but has heard no updates yet.

"I don't think I could sleep at night here anymore. So we're hoping. A buyout would be really nice."

The regional district that encompasses Hope also wants the province to increase funding for people displaced by the floods.

The Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) says the current limit of $300,000 is too low.

"While FVRD staff do not suggest that the Province should fully underwrite the risk for these kinds of events, $300,000 does not come close to meeting the needs of affected residents," the district said in an emailed statement.

Emergency Management B.C. says as of May 12, it has distributed more than $6.9 million through the disaster relief fund. In April, additional funding was announced for 10 flood-affected communities.

The province says it's still looking at ways to improve the Disaster Financial Assistance program.

RENTERS WORRY ABOUT FUTURE LONG-TERM HOUSING

The floods from November also displaced those who rented their homes in the Sumas Prairie community in Abbotsford, B.C., one of the worst-hit areas.

Katrina Page/CBC Sediment and debris cover the property Katrina Page lived on before the floods. (CBC)

One family — a mother and her daughter-in-law — whose home was destroyed are now living separately in a hotel and trailer. The daughter-in-law is pregnant.

CBC has agreed to withhold their identities due to concerns about safety and how speaking out could hurt their chances of finding new housing.

"It's a lot of renters that are the ones left behind you know … I'm really tired and overwhelmed." said the mother.

She has been getting financial support from the Red Cross but she's worried about finding new permanent housing that she can afford.

The daughter-in-law agreed, especially with a child on the way.

"I don't want to wake up in the morning and have to worry about where I'm going to lay my head," she said.

The Red Cross says while it can't comment on individual cases due to privacy, the agency is providing financial support to help with the costs of short-term accommodations and basic needs.

Abbotsford flood/Ben Nelms/CBC Six months after historic flooding, families are rebuilding their homes. Levi St. Jean works on his family's 80-year-old home after it was substantially damaged by floodwaters last November in Abbotsford, British Columbia. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

As of April, the Red Cross has raised more than $40 million for people affected by the flooding and extreme weather in British Columbia.

By late January, more than $17 million was distributed in evacuation-related emergency financial assistance to more than 7,200 eligible households, according to the statement.

But the daughter-in-law says they need more support for long-term affordable housing — a sentiment shared by other displaced residents.

"We want a home and not have to be afraid … of not having a home and where we're going to sleep."

The story was written by Baneet Braich, originally published for CBC News on May 17, 2022.

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