Valerie Stacey and her family will soon have a new place to call home — and will be reunited under one roof — after their former rental unit in Merritt was damaged in the devastating November 2021 flood.
The family was accepted into the Transitional Evacuee Manufactured Home Program — a first-of-its-kind housing program offered through the City of Merritt — and will be moving into one of 31 manufactured homes being installed at Diamond Vale Mobile Home and RV Park.
Stacey, who works as a deli manager at the local Save On Foods, said her family, including her 19 and 24-year-old sons, couldn’t move back in to their rental place after the flood.
"We lived in our fifth wheel on the same property as where we were living, with no water, no sewer, and then we found a one bedroom,” Stacey said.
“The boys ended up staying with friends, and me and my husband in the one bedroom — but rent is so expensive, especially since the flood.”
One, two and three bedroom mobile units are available through the new transitional housing program, which offers subsidized or below-market rental accommodation for flood impacted residents.
Stacey said the family is waiting to move into their new three-bedroom residence.
“I can’t wait to move in,” Stacey said, adding she was most excited to have a home again.
“Having a home is number one — and having the family back together,” Stacey said.
Sean Strang, the City of Merritt’s director of flood recovery and mitigation, said the program cost just under $9 million. The money is coming from a $24 million provincial flood recovery grant, with $11.7 million earmarked specifically for housing.
Strang said Merritt residents who were displaced by the floods had first priority when applying for the 31 homes. According to the city, 19 families have been accepted into the program, and will be able to rent the units at a subsidized rate — 70 per cent of market value.
According to the city, these applicants will also have access to additional financial supports offered through other agencies and non-profits.
“There’s people out there who have jobs, they have kids in school, their home was washed away or otherwise destroyed in the flood, and they physically, literally have not been able to find any place to reestablish themselves,” Strang said.
“That's what we were able to do with our provincial partners in this program — to provide a subsidized space where people who are just looking for a reasonable place to live, can come get a sense of space, get a sense of purpose, and then move on with their lives.”
Strang said phase two of the program will allow applications from residents who have been unable to find a home due to the flood’s impact on Merritt’s low cost housing stock. These program participants will have subsidized rent set at 85 per cent of market value.
Participants are able to buy out the homes before the end of their 24-month lease period. If they don’t want to buy, the units will be sold at the end of the contract on December 2024.
Strang noted there are other projects underway that will also address housing for city residents, adding the transitional housing initiative isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” program.
"We still have a couple other things that we'll be working on, other pieces of the puzzle. We’ll definitely be able to add to the housing solution in the community,” Strang said.
Merritt Mayor Michael Goetz said it was exciting to see people who have been affected by floods finally receive a home.
“It’s the start of the healing for people that have not been able to be in their homes,” Goetz said.
He gave credit to the former mayor and council and city staff for doing most of the hard work on the project.
“I'm really happy it's happening, and it couldn't be a more beautiful day. I'm excited to meet the people that are moving in and very happy to see the trailers rolling in every single day and the crews that have been working hard to set them up for these people,” Goetz said.
“Soon they'll be back in the community, and be part of our community again, and be home.”