Cleaning up ‘zombie homes’
Rep. Scott Louser
The abandoned properties, or zombie homes as they’ve been referred to in Minot, have become one of the flood related issues that needs resolution. It is difficult to determine the personal circumstances property owners have been presented with due to the flood, however three years plus after the disaster begs that these properties be cleaned up.
Legislative bills for introduction in 2013 needed to be submitted by Jan. 21 and at that time a year and a half ago, Minot was still in the midst of intense flood recovery. This past May, I requested that Legislative Council prepare a bill for introduction next session that appropriates $1 million to the City of Minot so that the City can hire contractors to clean up the designated homes. The bill would require the City to use the special assessment process and to use no more than $10,000 of the funds per property. Should the cleanup exceed that amount, the money would need to come from the City budget. As the special assessment is repaid to the City, the money would then be appropriated to the Park District for use in their annual budget.
A recent request was made for money that was appropriated to allow the Minot Housing Authority to manage the previously occupied FEMA temporary housing park. As the sponsor of the amendment to the appropriations bill, I can say it was not the intent of that legislation to give a private entity taxpayer funds to purchase property for profit. If that were the case, the Minot Housing Authority, its board members, the current property owners or even any member of the public could request that money for their own personal use. Ultimately, the funds to manage the park were not needed due to the success of another bill that passed last year allowing access for FEMA residents to borrow Rebuilder’s Loan Program funds to purchase their units. Perhaps the Legislature would even be receptive to increasing this request to match the amount of unused funds.
I have been in contact with legislators around the state and have given periodic updates of the progress of Minot’s recovery and the needs our community members still face. The above approach has support and provides an honest effort to funding a recovery while using the money not only for private property clean up but subsequently for the park district budget.