HUD's Resilience Revolution

At first glance, Minot, North Dakota, might not look like a cauldron of resilience innovation. This modest city of about 50,000 on the Souris River is mainly known to the outside world for a nearby air force base stocked with Stratofortress bombers and Minuteman missiles, surrounded by a sprawling Midwestern farmscape.

But after severe floods on the Souris in 2011 displaced 12,000 people — at the same time that a boom in the nearby Bakken oil fields sent housing costs soaring and sapped social cohesion — Minot became the eye of a resilience whirlwind. Working with a crack team of climate specialists, hydraulic modelers, housing experts, economic developers, and landscape architects, the City has crafted a multipronged strategy to build new microcommunities safely out of harm’s way. In the process, it has forged common cause with counterparts across the Canadian border to control flooding and targeted a new educational center to diversify the downtown economy. To top it all off, Minot marshaled more than $337 million through a one-half-cent sales tax to fund regional flood protection.

On January 29, these impressive efforts vaulted the city to a spot among 13 winners of the National Disaster Resilience Competition, who together will share nearly $1 billion in recovery funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Taking home an award of $74 million, Minot wants to show the world how to confront climate change while empowering citizens to take charge of their own destiny. “When we wrote Minot’s application,” said Lee Staab, Minot’s city manager, “I thought it was important for other smaller communities to say, hey — these folks in Minot have got some great ideas, and that’s what we can do for our community too.”