New Jersey Wants Sandy Money Shifted to Housing Repairs

By WAYNE PARRY | November 8, 2013

As many as 1,100 families on waiting lists for help rebuilding their homes after Superstorm Sandy could benefit from a plan New Jersey has to move additional storm recovery funds to repair programs.

The state’s Department of Community Affairs is asking the federal government to let it change how it plans to use some of the $1.8 billion in federal Community Development Block Grant funds New Jersey received earlier this year.

New Jersey wants to transfer $160 million from a small business grant and loan program and use it to rebuild houses that can be saved, or knock down ones that can’t.

“The demand for our major Sandy housing recovery programs has far exceeded available federal funding, which forced us to place many eligible families on a wait-list,” said DCA Commissioner Richard Constable, III, whose department administers the state’s Disaster Recovery Action Plan. “This amendment will help more Sandy-distressed homeowners get much needed monies to return to their communities to repair and rebuild their homes. In addition to helping homeowners, the amendment also seeks to eradicate threats to health or public safety in Sandy-ravaged communities by demolishing unsafe structures.”

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development must approve the proposed change in how the money will be spent in New Jersey.

Frustration with being put on waiting lists is a major complaint voiced by many Sandy victims who say they are no closer to fixing their homes now than they were right after the Oct. 29, 2012, storm.

The proposal would add $110 million to the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation, and Mitigation program to allow between 800-to-1,100 families on a waiting list to receive a grant of up to $150,000 to help repair or rebuild their home. The program, which closed its application period on Aug. 1, had reserved funding for approximately 4,300 homeowners, but more than 8,700 households remain on the program’s waiting list.

It also would add $35 million to the Homeowner Resettlement Program to provide each of the more than 2,100 families on a waiting list with a $10,000 grant to encourage them to stay in their home community rather than relocating. The program, which also closed its application period on Aug. 1, has sent checks to more than 15,000 eligible families, who can use the money for non-construction storm-related expenses such as increases in flood insurance premiums, rent payments for temporary housing, and new furniture and appliances. With the proposed funding reallocation, every eligible applicant who applied to the program before the Aug. 1 deadline would be able to receive a check.

And it also would allocate $15 million for demolition of unsafe Sandy-damaged structures.

The money would be shifted from a program of grants and forgivable loans to small businesses.

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