When the federal government awarded Minot over 74-million dollars to help build a more flood-proof future for its citizens, it was based on the booming economy at the time.
But today, as the city tries to implement some of the projects that had been devised in 2014, city leaders are finding a much different economic reality in the region.
Jim Olson reports on the effort to re-work the plans to spend some of that federal windfall.
Minot received millions of federal dollars to help people displaced by the 2011 flood – or the flood protection project – find new places to live.
But the money – and the strings attached – have become a source of frustration.
(Shannon Straight, City Council Member) “It’s frustrating.”
(Stephan Podrygula, City Council Member) “I share the frustration.”
(John Zakian, National Disaster Resilience Program Manager) “I share your frustration.”
They were speaking after the council voted to reject proposals that would have created a specific “resilient neighborhood,” where residents could qualify for up to 60-thousand dollars in federal subsidy to purchase a home. One local developer who tried to design such a neighborhood says he spent lots of time and money meeting the stated requirements, only to have the city decide on a different path. Alderman Shannon Straight says it’s an issue with restrictions imposed by the feds.
(Shannon Straight, City Council Member) “What they’re doing now is fracturing our community. They’re pitting a developer with city staff, with us, we’re on the defensive. I’m uncomfortable with that.”
The problem is, the city’s economy – and the housing market – are much less vibrant today than when the plan was hatched.
(Josh Wolsky, City Council Member) “There is plenty of supply in the housing market and incentivizing, with a federal subsidy, growth of that supply just doesn’t strike me as the best decision.”
The plan has changed now – almost all of the city outside the flood plain is now considered a resilient neighborhood meaning existing homes, as well as new construction can qualify for the subsidy. Meanwhile alderman Shannon Straight is concerned that the program’s scheduled end date of 2022 will exclude helping people in areas that are still many years away from having to move out due to flood protection.
(Shannon Straight, City Council Member) “We have to have something in the toolkit for those folks down the road.”
It’s a topic the council has agreed to take up in detail as early as the next regular committee meetings at the end of this month. Jim Olson, KX News.
The city must allocate the 74-million dollars to be spent by the middle of the year 2022.