N.J. wants to shift funds to help more Sandy-affected homeowners

TRENTON – The state wants to allocate more federal funds to two post-Sandy housing recovery efforts.

The Christie administration said Wednesday it wants to add $110 million to one program to allow from 800 to 1,100 families on a waiting list to receive a grant from the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation, and Mitigation Program.

That program provides up to $150,000 to help homeowners repair or rebuild homes wrecked by last year’s superstorm.

The program had funding for approximately 4,300 homeowners, but more than 8,700 households remain on the program’s waiting list, the administration said.

The other change the state wants to make is to add $35 million to the Homeowner Resettlement Program to provide each of the more than 2,100 Sandy-impacted families on that waiting list with a $10,000 grant to incentivize them to stay in their home community rather than relocating.

The other thing the state wants to do is set aside $15 million to support the demolition of unsafe Sandy-damaged structures in order to alleviate blight.

“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 waitlist,” said New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard E. Constable, III.

There is a public comment period until Nov. 20 to weigh in on the proposed amendments to the state’s Recovery Action plan that has $1.82 billion from the federal government.

The Legislature held four hearing over the last several months that brought out testimony regarding homeowners stuck on waiting lists and having trouble dealing with DCA and other agencies.

The amendment can be viewed in English and Spanish at http://www.nj.gov/dca/divisions/sandyrecovery/action/ on the DCA website. Written comments on the amendment will be accepted at sandy.recovery@dca.state.nj.us until 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 20.

U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, (D-9), had urged the administration last month to consider addressing this situation of homeowners needing help by reopening applications for such programs and finding money to assist them.

In part, Pascrell had written that “The State of New Jersey provided Sandy-impacted municipalities with a list of properties determined to have been substantially damaged just six weeks ago.

“This determination triggers the requirement that certain properties be elevated in order to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program. Many of my constituents in towns such as Little Ferry received notice of the need to elevate only after the application periods for federally funded elevation assistance had already closed.

“These damage assessments should have been completed months ago so that homeowners could have known what was required of them when undertaking repairs on their homes and had the opportunity to apply for federal relief.”

N.J. wants to shift funds to help more Sandy-affected homeowners