New Jersey is a step closer to its goal of helping the thousands of people on waiting lists for Superstorm Sandy rebuilding assistance now that the federal government has approved its plans for spending $1.46 billion in the second round of storm aid.
The decision by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development was reached last Friday and announced Monday by HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
When the $881 million from a third round of funding announced last week by HUD is included, the state expects to be able to award grants to each of the approximately 6,400 people on a waiting list for the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation & Mitigation Program, the state’s largest Sandy housing recovery initiative.
New Jersey received $1.8 billion in Sandy aid last year. All told, it will receive about $4.2 billion, a small fraction of the cost of damage from the October 2012 storm, which was spawned when Hurricane Sandy merged with two other weather systems and became the state’s worst natural disaster.
Christie said Monday the state has enjoyed a strong working relationship with HUD throughout its Sandy recovery “and we continue to work collaboratively to get families back into their homes as quickly as possible and find opportunities to help communities build back even stronger.”
The plan includes slightly more housing assistance, including more aid to low- and moderate-income storm victims. The state will spend $775 million of the $1.46 billion on programs for homeowners and renters, up from $735 million in its original spending plan. Of that, $490 million will go to low or moderate-income families, up from $450 million in the original plan.
The higher numbers incorporate the terms of a settlement reached last Friday between the state and several housing and civil rights advocates who complained to HUD about how the state was distributing aid. Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said the plan approved by HUD includes the extra housing aid agreed to in the settlement, which HUD helped broker.
Many areas of the state’s original spending plan were approved without change, including allocations of $390 million for the RREM program, which is addition to the $710 million received last year. It adds $200 million to the $179 million allocated last year for a fund to help develop affordable multifamily rental housing.
It also allocates $100 million for the New Jersey Blue Acres Buyout Program to purchase flood-prone homes, $25 million to develop affordable housing for special-needs populations, $20 million to help stabilize storm-damaged neighborhoods with significant numbers of abandoned, foreclosed or vacant properties and $5 million for this year’s summer tourism campaign.
Other plans approved by HUD include $200 million to fund projects that would ensure highly reliable power supplies to critical public facilities such as water and wastewater treatment plants, hospitals, shelters, emergency response centers and transit networks if the larger electrical grid fails.
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