Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Sen. Kent Conrad, Sen. John Hoeven and Congressman Rick Berg today announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved Dalrymple's request to extend by six months the agency's temporary housing program for Ward County residents who were displaced by last year's historic Mouse River flood.
On Aug. 1, Dalrymple sent a letter to FEMA Regional Director Robin Finegan, requesting the six-month housing extension, and the state's congressional delegation pressed FEMA Director Craig Fugate to extend the housing program as per the governor's request. FEMA's temporary housing mission for Ward County residents was set to expire Dec. 24, 2012. FEMA officials notified Dalrymple and the state's congressional delegation today that the extension request has been approved and the agency's temporary housing units will remain in use in Minot through June 24, 2013.
FEMA'a agreement to extend the housing program includes a plan to begin charging occupants rent for the temporary housing units. FEMA's initial plans are to begin charging rent of $686 for two-bedroom units and $947 for three-bedroom units. The agency indicated that the rental estimates reflect 2012 rates, and could be adjusted upward for 2013. FEMA plans to begin charging monthly rent in January. Occupants who can't afford the rent can appeal to FEMA for a rent adjustment.
Dalrymple and the state's congressional delegation said that in light of the severity of last year's flooding and the burden of an extensive recovery, they will press FEMA to reduce significantly or eliminate entirely the rental fee requirement. At the same time, they said they will press the agency to propose realistic and affordable terms for sales when the housing units become available for purchase.
"FEMA's decision to extend this important housing program in Ward County is a step in the right direction, but we can do better in our assistance to the many people who have been displaced by the flood," the governor and congressional delegation said. "The extension gives our displaced residents more time to transition into permanent housing, but any rent fees must be reasonable, affordable and realistic considering the severe impact of flooding on area residents."
Following last year's flood, about 2,000 Ward County households relied on FEMA's mobile units for temporary housing. Nearly 1,200 Ward County households continue to make arrangements for permanent housing.