Zombie homes continue to disappear from Minot

Zombie homes. Blighted properties. By any name, they have been part of our community for far too long. Thankfully, their numbers are dwindling.

This summer, contractors will remove another six structures on the shrinking list of zombie homes that still exist in the river valley. On June 4, I’ll join a crew that will demolish a structure at 1607 Burdick Expressway East, the first of the homes that will be razed this year. I’ll even get to use some heavy machinery to tear down part of the home myself.

While I’m looking forward to helping eliminate another piece of the zombie home plague, this opportunity has also given me cause to reflect on the larger issue.

While six may not seem like a lot of zombie homes that will be removed this year, consider that only 26 structures remain on the list. When you think about the thousands of structures destroyed or damaged in 2011, the remaining 26 identified zombie homes represent less than 1 percent of that total. To me, that’s remarkable. For some, the flood seems like a distant memory, but in reality, eight years is not that long ago. Anyone who’s lived through such a disaster knows that true recovery can’t be accurately gauged by time alone. Like thousands of other Minot residents, I know that first-hand.

These homes have certainly been a sensitive issue in our community since the flood of 2011, and with good reason. Many residents lost everything in the flood. Homes – and lives – were destroyed. Those who chose to stay and rebuild faced daunting challenges physically, emotionally, & financially. While many residents worked tirelessly and proudly to repair their homes as quickly as was feasible, other structures sat untouched for years after the flood, for a variety of reasons. Every homeowner’s story was different, and we certainly recognize that. But we also recognize the importance of moving forward, and of healing.

This process is not easy. Because the cost of acquisitions has been funded through a previous allocation from the federal Community Disaster Block Grant program, all acquisitions must be voluntary. Some structures have been minimally repaired since 2011, and their owners are still trying to restore the homes to a state of livability. We encourage them to continue their efforts. Other owners have no desire to sell their property, and unless those structures are condemned, there is no way to legally acquire them. Because of that, the City can’t create a realistic timeline for the elimination of the remaining zombie homes.

These homes are not within the footprint of the Mouse River Enhanced Flood Protection Project. We do not need to acquire them to make room for flood walls, or to build more levees. Rather, these homes are being removed because their existence is a hazard to our community. Beyond being eyesores, they are true hazards to Minot’s physical and emotional health. That’s why the City has worked diligently to remove as many as possible.

Eliminating these zombie homes was an important issue to me long before I became mayor or before I was elected to the City Council. Removing these homes is something I and others have been pushing the City to do for a long time. I truly believe their removal is part of our overall recovery as neighborhoods, as a city, and as a community. Their continued presence is a reminder of the worst natural disasters in our city’s history. Their removal, even if it’s only six a year, is another step on the long road to recovery for all of us and serves as a reminder that, as many residents proudly proclaimed after the flood, We’re Coming Back.

Sincerely, City Hall