N.J. Seeks to Shift Funds to Aid Homeowners Waitlisted for Sandy Grants

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s administration said it is seeking to allocate additional federal funds to two major Superstorm Sandy housing recovery programs and also to set aside funds for a program to demolish unsafe structures.

The Christie administration said it is seeking the Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) approval to transfer $160 million of the federal funds designated for grants and forgivable loans to small businesses to these programs.

If approved, the proposed amendment would enable thousands of additional Sandy-impacted homeowners to receive federal resources to assist them in their recovery effort. The public can also comment on these proposals until Nov. 20.

“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 (DCA) Commissioner Richard Constable. His department administers the state’s Disaster Recovery Action Plan for Sandy-impacted residents.

“This amendment will help more Sandy-distressed homeowners get much needed monies to return to their communities to repair and rebuild their homes,” Constable said. “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 proposed amendment seeks to:

• Add $110 million to the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation, and Mitigation (RREM) Program to allow between 800 to 1,100 Sandy-impacted families currently on the waitlist to receive a RREM grant.

This RREM grant provides up to $150,000 to help homeowners impacted by Sandy repair or rebuild their home. The program, which closed its application period on Aug. 1, 2013, has previously reserved funding for 4,300 homeowners — but more than 8,700 households remain on the program’s waitlist.

• Add $35 million to the Homeowner Resettlement Program to provide each of the more than 2,100 Sandy-impacted families on the program’s waitlist with a $10,000 grant to incentivize them to stay in their home community rather than relocating.

The Homeowner Resettlement program, which closed its application period on Aug. 1, 2013, has sent Resettlement checks to date 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 this new proposed funding reallocation, every eligible applicant who applied to the program before the Aug. 1 deadline will now receive a Resettlement award.

• Set aside $15 million to support the demolition of unsafe Sandy-damaged structures in order to alleviate blight and address threats to public health and welfare.