Governor asks for housing mission

BISMARCK Gov. Jack Dalrymple has requested that the Federal Emergency Management Agency extend a temporary housing program that has been aiding Minot and Ward County residents displaced by the 2011 Souris River flood.

FEMA’s temporary housing program for Minot-area residents impacted by flooding expires June 24. Dalrymple has asked FEMA to continue the program for another 90 days, which would move the deadline to Sept. 22.

In a letter to Doug Gore, FEMA’s Region 8 acting administrator, Dalrymple said the deadline should be extended to give residents more time to transition to permanent housing.

“The 2011 … flood created extraordinary hardships on residents in the Souris River Basin and the on-going disaster response must also be extraordinary,” Dalrymple said in a prepared statement.

There are 350 households still living in FEMA units, which is down from more than 2,000 households at the peak.

Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman said the city sought to have the deadline extended into the summer, when moving would be more convenient for residents. He added that the city also desires the extension to give the Minot Housing Authority more time to put together an affordable housing program that utilizes temporary housing units once no longer part of the FEMA operation.

FEMA is willing to donate units to the housing authority to operate a subsidized housing program at the site of its Virgil Workman Village, but the authority has struggled to find funding to establish a feasible program. The housing authority estimates about 200 families currently in FEMA units would qualify for the program if it can be developed.

Tom Pearson, executive director of the housing authority, said the program appears to be coming together. An extension would create some breathing room, though, he said. Additional affordable housing expected to come on the market over the summer also will create more options for people after June 24, he said.

The North Dakota Legislature is considering legislation to expand and extend a state loan program for residents who remain displaced by flooding. Senate Bill 2132, approved by the Legislature Friday and awaiting the governor’s signature, would make low-interest loans available to flood victims to buy FEMA housing units, purchase other permanent housing or to repair damaged homes.

The Legislature also is considering a proposal that would provide $1.5 million to help flood-impacted communities transition residents from temporary housing to permanent housing. The money could assist Minot Housing Authority with its proposed project involving the FEMA units.