The City of Merritt recently unveiled the first of 31 new manufactured homes purchased as part of flood relief efforts looking to house those who remain without a permanent place to call home, and one Merritt family was the first to see their new home during the event at Diamondvale Trailer Park. 

The City’s Transitional Evacuee Manufactured Home Program (TEMHP) was established with a portion of the $24,255,000 funding the City received by way of B.C.’s  Ministry of Municipal Affairs. The program offers subsidized or below-market, temporary, transitional, rental accommodation for flood affected individuals and families for a period of 4 to 24 months. The first of the manufactured homes began arriving early last month, and all homes are set to be in place in March. One Merritt family will move in in the coming weeks after losing their home in November of 2021. 

“We lost everything in the flood. Our 4-bedroom home, our furniture, and an affordable place to rent,” says new TEMHP program participant Valerie Stacey. 

“After the flood, rents skyrocketed. We were forced to live in a 5th wheel without water or sewer for about 7 months. Our only other option was to squeeze our family of four into a small one-bedroom rental.”

Stacey and her family will soon occupy a three bedroom trailer at the park, but two, three, and four bedroom units are available as part of the program. Phase one of the program, completed in December 2022, offered subsidized rents set at 70% of market value, plus additional financial support for flood affected families provided through several community partners. The City said phase two of the program adds “much needed housing stock” to the flood-impacted community and provides selected residents, who can apply through Royal LePage Property Management, with below-market rents.

The family of four, including Stacey, her partner, and two sons, met with Mayor Mike Goetz on February 10 to view their new home, and talk to local media and City of Merritt officials. The family was presented with a welcome basket and the keys to their new home. Stacey previously told City officials that the new place to call home puts an end to a lot of uncertainty for herself and her family. 

“While the flood and the evacuation were very traumatic, the relentless uncertainty of getting a home was really, really difficult,” noted Stacey.

“We just couldn’t afford anything on the market. When the Red Cross told us about the City’s Transitional Housing Program, I was so excited. I am really grateful for the financial and mental health support from the Red Cross.”

Participants in the TEMHP may opt to buy-out their manufactured home at any time during the 24-month lease period at an adjusted rate. The homes will be sold on the open market at the end of the contract term ending December 2024 if they haven’t been sold to their occupants, which the City said will further help to alleviate the pressure on Merritt’s stretched housing market. Phase two applications are ongoing, and will allow the community to apply for housing at 85 percent of market value, although no further financial support is offered as they are to phase one applicants. 

Merritt Mayor Mike Goetz sees the program as a step in the right direction for Merritt’s recovery, and called the initiative a “ground-breaking” achievement for the future of flood recovery. While he said the City still has a long way to go in its recovery efforts, programs like the TEMHP bring peace of mind.

“This is the first time any program like this has ever been created,” commented Goetz. 

“The City of Merritt is creating a ground-breaking new transitional housing program that will surely set the benchmark in future flood-recovery planning. We express our appreciation to the BC Ministry of Municipal Affairs for providing the financial aid to make this flood-recovery housing program possible.”

B.C.’s Minister of Municipal Affairs, Anne Kang, was invited to the unveiling of the new manufactured homes, but was unable to attend the event. She provided a statement highlighting the collaboration between municipal and provincial levels of government to get the new project across the finish line.

“The Province and the City of Merritt have been working closely since then to find ways to support community members. These new homes provide a boost to Merritt’s housing stock, helping families and residents move back into their community,” said Kang in a statement.

For more information on the Transitional Evacuee Manufactured Home Program, contact the City of Merritt at [email protected]. Applications for phase two of the program should be submitted to Royal LePage Property Management at [email protected].