Consultants coordinate flood recovery efforts

Construction crews with the City of Minot’s Housing Rehabilitation and Reconstruction program are moving quickly to restore and rebuild homes damaged in the 2011 flood.

Although the program is making for happy homeowners, the program’s managers worry that the program could run out of work before it runs out of money.

CDM Smith, hired by the city to coordinate the $4.5 million rehabilitation program and $9.5 million reconstruction program, has a goal to rehabilitate or reconstruct 125 homes. As of June 21, it had 90 homes in its pipeline.

“We don’t consider it a success until we have distributed all the money,” said Robert Batherson, vice president for CDM Smith. “It’s starting to hit diminishing returns on applicants now, and that’s the concern. We have done a lot of outreach, but I think there’s still people out there who didn’t get the message.”

He said some residents also might be hesitant to apply because they are unsure of eligibility or consider their needs below than those of their neighbors. These reasons should not stop people from investigating the program, he said. Even homeowners who may have started work on their homes still can get help for projects they have yet to finish.

As of June 21, the program had completed six homes with 48 more eligible and 36 under review for eligibility. The program has received 126 applications and found 35 ineligible, largely because applicants fell outside the low- to moderate-income guidelines. The guidelines are set by the federal Housing and Urban Development office for the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery program, which is funding Minot’s construction program.

The 2013 income limits provide eligibility if income is at or below: $36,300 for a one-person household; $41,500 for a two-person household; $46,700 for a three-person household; $51,850 for a four-person household; $56,000 for a five-person household; $60,150 for a six-person household; $64,300 for a seven-person household; and $68,450 for an eight-person household.

Batherson said people should not disqualify themselves if they believe their income exceeds the limit. There are circumstances that can affect the calculation of income so people should visit with a program case worker to get an accurate determination of their eligibility, he said.

CDM Smith also connects people with Hope Village, Recovery Warehouse and other volunteer services if they are not eligible for the CDBG-DR assistance or if that assistance doesn’t fully cover their needs.

Signing up for the program begins with a call to CDM Smith at 837-5813 or a visit to headquarters in Arrowhead Shopping Center in Minot. Applicants need to provide tax and other financial information, along with insurance settlement documents, information on federal, state and local assistance provided and receipts for any repairs. They must be current on any mortgage and property taxes.

Once approved, applicants meet with the contractor to establish the scope and type of work.

The cap on the amount of assistance that homeowners can receive was increased to $90,000 for rehabilitation and $195,000 for reconstruction. The amount of help that residents have actually needed, though, varies considerably. Some have needed as little as $27,000 to finish work that they started and others have needed well over $100,000 to complete reconstruction.

The housing program doesn’t reimburse homeowners for repairs already made, but the city is writing a proposal to HUD in the hope that it might be possible to use other CDBG-DR funds for that purpose.

DSW Homes, a Texas company that has opened an office in Minot, holds the contract for the rehabilitation and reconstruction. The company brought in seasoned supervisors and has been using local subcontractors, Batherson said.

Darlene Rostad, a northwest Minot homeowner, moved back this week after being displaced for two years. Even with unpacked boxes still awaiting her attention, she said, it’s been good to be home.

David Sellers, production manager with DSW Homes, said Rostad’s home was typical of flooded, older homes that were brought up to modern city codes through rehabilitation. His company also was able to make foundation repairs and moisture-seal her basement, upgrading a home already made nicer with new flooring, cabinets and appliances on the main floor.

According to CDM Smith, people often have misconceptions about the program. For one, they fear that the program will move slowly. The average construction time on a rehabilitation project is 32 days, said Steve Ates, CDM Smith construction coordinator. The average new construction time is 50 days.

People also have the misconception that the program doesn’t use quality materials. Batherson said homeowners are involved in the process of choosing construction inputs, and feedback has indicated that homeowners have been highly satisfied with the work and materials.