They don't appear on any maps, but following the 2011 Souris River flood, there are three new communities in Ward County. De Sour Valley Heights, Virgil Workman Village and Recovery Village are group housing sites built under the supervision of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) at the request of FEMA. The sites are filled with manufactured homes provided by FEMA, supplementing hundreds more that sit near flooded residences or in previously existing manufactured home parks.
FEMA's housing assistance following a disaster generally consists of funds to make minimal repairs to allow people to return to their homes, or rental assistance to pay for alternate housing. The oil boom in Northwest North Dakota had already pushed vacancies in Ward County to nearly zero, so FEMA housing specialists quickly determined that additional measures would be needed. Manufactured housing units would be brought in to provide temporary housing while homes in the area would be repaired or rebuilt.
While a large number of the FEMA manufactured housing units would be able to be placed on the property of homeowners, this option would not be feasible for everyone. It became clear that additional sites would need to be built to place a large number of the housing units. FEMA tasked the USACE with supervising construction of these group housing sites. FEMA, USACE, and city and county officials came together to assemble a list of potential sites to be reviewed. Of the 24 locations reviewed, the only ones that were deemed feasible were the three areas chosen.
In addition to having the availability of a large open plot of land, there was also the requirement of having close access to infrastructure. De Sour Valley Heights was able to be tied in with the City of Burlington, while Virgil Workman and Recovery Villages fell under the City of Minot. Building the group sites required a vast amount of work, including delivery of electricity, water and sewer services as well as construction of a street system to access the hundreds of homes that would eventually be placed at the three sites.
While work was progressing on the group housing sites, FEMA housing units were arriving daily and being placed on private property, allowing homeowners to stay nearer their damaged homes while making repairs. Ultimately, more than 1000 of these private site placements were made. FEMA followed up by taking special winterization measures to ensure the homes would withstand the area’s harsh climate.
By mid-October the first residents were able to move into the new communities, with the three sites continuing to grow in size until just prior to Christmas, when the final residents were able to move in. During the same time frame, more than 250 households were able to move in to units located at six previously existing manufactured home parks. FEMA was able to sign lease agreements with these facilities, and in some cases provided assistance in clearing lots of flood debris to make that available for home placement.
In total, more than 2000 FEMA housing units were put into service in Ward County, with more than 750 being occupied in the three communities. That small group, in addition to being from the Souris Valley, will be able to say that for a short time they called De Sour Valley Heights, Virgil Workman Village or Recovery Village home.
FEMA Housing at a Glance
Virgil Workman Village
Location: East edge of Minot, south of US Highway 2 and west of E. 55th Street.
Maximum Capacity: 600, consisting of 3 adjacent 200 unit sites
Current Occupied Units (as of May 31): 532
First Units Occupied: Oct. 2011
Location: Northeast edge of Minot, off of 42nd Street.
Maximum Capacity: 200