$3.5M for Upper Liard flood victims

The Yukon Housing Corporation is offering a $3.5-million assistance package for Upper Liard residents affected by June’s record floods.

The Yukon Housing Corporation is offering a $3.5-million assistance package for Upper Liard residents affected by June’s record floods.

The corporation has proposed to purchase 11 of the 13 affected properties and “deem the area as flood prone and not suitable for occupancy,” according to a press release.

The corporation has worked to strike a balance between providing enough assistance to allow people to move on with their lives, but not so much that the public views it as an undeserved windfall, said Allyn Lyon, the corporation’s director of community and industry partnering.

“You can’t pay back people for everything. There is just no way. People have invested their lives into those properties, 30, 40 years. They have blood, sweat and tears, how do you compensate for that? You just can’t do it.”

Two properties on the western riverbank sustained damage, mainly to wells and septic systems, and owners qualify for assistance in paying for the necessary repairs.

The 11 properties on the eastern riverbank, on the other hand, were “virtually destroyed,” the release stated.

Normally, the federal disaster relief program only covers repairs to the residence and replacement of belongings, but this assistance package acts more as an incentive to move away from the area.

The package includes the appraised cost of rebuilding the residence, depreciated for the age of the structure.

In addition, owners will be compensated for half of the value of non-residential structures on the property, such as barns and garages.

The land value as set out in the most recent tax assessment was also included.

Assessors also included the replacement costs for major personal property lost, such as appliances and furniture. Fifty per cent was added to this value to compensate for minor items, such as clothing and linens.

The housing corporation expects that about 80 per cent of the assistance package will be covered by the federal disaster fund. The rest will come from the territorial government.

If residents decline to sell their property to the government, they will qualify for the normal assistance package, which would help them with repair costs to the main residential structure and replacement for lost belongings.

However, because the government plans to designate the area as high risk for flooding, any residents who choose to stay will not qualify for disaster assistance in the event of future floods, Lyon said.

Most of them, however, knew as soon as the flood hit that they would not return to their homes, said Lyon.

“When we went down and dealt with the families the Friday right after the flood, they were telling us, ‘We’ve had enough. We can’t fight the river, the river has won. This is going to happen again.’”

Some homeowners had only recently completed repairs from a flood that occurred in 2007.

Unlike previous floods, this flood happened very quickly after a dyke caved in, and people were not prepared for it.

“One big difference with this flood was the floodwaters sort of inundated these houses over the course of about three hours so people didn’t have time to remove belongings, and in fact some people had a hard time even getting their vehicles out,” said Lyon.

Displaced residents can use the regular programming offered by the corporation to find suitable housing elsewhere.

“I would say that they would probably get a very warm welcome,” said Lyon.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at jronson@yukon-news.com