Two hundred flooded-out residents of Little Saskatchewan First Nation, who fled their homes in 2011, are to get new homes under a deal between the province and Ottawa.
The 40 new homes were originally intended for flooded-out residents of Lake St. Martin First Nation, but because of inaction on the part of that community's leaders, they will go to Little Saskatchewan instead, Manitoba's Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Minister Eric Robinson said Friday.
"Because Lake St. Martin has not been forthcoming in telling us exactly what they want to do, we don't want those houses to sit for another winter unattended and unoccupied," Robinson said. "We've got no choice. There are other people that require homes. We had to make a decision."
Robinson said the homes will be moved early in the new year and ready for residency by early spring.
Manitoba will pay up to $4.3 million for Little Saskatchewan to move the houses, build a community road and prepare housing lots and foundations.
The houses will be located on land the band owns in the RM of Grahamdale, about 45 minutes by road from where the houses are currently sitting.
"They're going to be in a better location," Robinson said, explaining they'll be dry in the event of another flood.
The province and Ottawa will each pay $3.3 million for the first 34 houses and six more will be covered under the federal Disaster Financial Assistance program. The homes will allow 200 of the 360 remaining flood evacuees from Little Saskatchewan to return to their home community.
Last February, the province bought 60 modular homes, set them up on a former radar base near Gypsumville and furnished them. It was hoped the evacuees from Lake St. Martin would move into the homes rather than remain in hotels or living in limbo with relatives.
Ten months later, only 13 families have taken advantage of the offer, so most of the homes, ranging in size from two to five bedrooms, are empty. The houses cost an average of $200,000 each.
Many Lake St. Martin residents did not want to go to the Gypsumville site, fearing it would become their permanent home. There was also some concern it would end federal disaster-assistance payments to evacuees.
Robinson said four other communities have contacted his office asking about acquiring the unused homes.
He said about 2,000 people still remain displaced because of flooding in 2011 on Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin.