Administration submits plan for $1.8B in Sandy recovery funds

TRENTON  – The Christie Administration today submitted the nearly $1.83 billion plan to the federal government covering Sandy recovery.

The administration sent its Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Action Plan to the Department of Housing and Urban Development for approval. It outlines how the state will divide the money for renters, businesses, homeowners and communities affected by Superstorm Sandy.

The plan also includes comments submitted by the public, along with the state’s responses.

“The programs designed as part of the Action Plan will help address the unmet needs of Sandy-impacted homeowners, renters, and business owners as they rebuild their lives and recover from their losses,” Gov. Chris Christie said in a statement. 

Superstorm Sandy caused an estimated $3.837 billion in damage to houses and apartments throughout the state, with over 86,700 units damaged.

“This plan puts into motion the specific actions we’ve been designing to get relief out as quickly as possible to our Sandy-impacted homeowners and businesses – to reconstruct, rehabilitate and elevate homes, and to get over hurdles for our small businesses to get up and running again,” Christie said.

Part of the overall goal is a marketing campaign to help ensure Shore businesses are up and running in time for summer.

The plan focuses mostly on the nine counties most affected by the storm (Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean and Union).

If HUD green-lights the plan, more than 26,000 homeowners,  5,000 renters, and 10,000 businesses will receive help.

HUD has up to 45 days to approve the Action Plan, but has stated that it will conduct an expedited review process, which means it could be completed as soon as next month.

Nearly half of the aid will help homeowners. The plan calls for $825 million for the  reconstruction, rehabilitation, and elevation of residents’ homes.

There’s also aid for tenants, as the plan will also set aside $254.5 million to meet the needs of displaced renters.

Through the plan, the state will leverage CDBG Disaster Recovery funds to create approximately 5,000 affordable rental units for low-to-moderate-income families, including those with special needs.

Aid would also be available for busineses as the plan calls for setting aside $500 million of the CDBG Disaster Recovery funds for the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to administer such activities as small business grants, community revitalization programs and a tourism marketing campaign.

The administration submitted the following breakdown. 

· Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program: This $600 million program will provide eligible homeowners up to $150,000 to aid reconstruction, rehabilitation, elevation and mitigation of damaged homes. Seventy percent of the funds will be reserved for low-to-moderate-income households.

· Housing Resettlement Program: This program is aimed at Sandy-impacted homeowners who sustained storm damage and who are considering selling or abandoning their property. Funded at $200 million, this program will provide $10,000 grants to eligible homeowners. Sixty percent of the funds will be reserved for low-to-moderate-income households.

· Blight Reduction Pilot Program: This $30 million program will provide zero-interest forgivable loans to nonprofit and for-profit developers to purchase and rehabilitate foreclosed, vacant or abandoned properties.

· Sandy Home Buyer Assistance Program: Funded at $25 million, this program will provide financial assistance of up to $50,000 to low-and-moderate-income households to purchase a home. Housing created under this program would be affordable to households earning up to 80 percent of the area median income.

The plan was not without critics.

Fair Share Housing Center, which criticized the state previously on this issue, called on HUD to ensure that federal funds are used fairly to address everyone’s needs.

“Eighty percent of the lowest income people impacted by Sandy are renters,” Fair Share Housing Center Associate Director Kevin D. Walsh said in a release. “Yet only 20 percent of the people covered by the state’s proposed plan are renters.

“Fewer than one out of every 20 renters who registered with FEMA would be helped through the state’s plan.”

The administration consistently has dismissed the criticism as inaccurate and unfounded.

Administration submits plan for $1.8B in Sandy recovery funds