Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Hurricane Sandy Relief Funds Might Not Be Used to Rebuild Homes

Six months after Hurricane Sandy made landfall, property owners are still struggling with the costs of repairs, and it was recently discovered that New York City residents might not be allowed to use federally granted funds to rebuild their homes. 

New Yorkers still have a hurdle to overcome with regard to funding for hurricane repairs and renovations: federal relief money disbursed to private citizens can only be used to build new structures, not restore damaged ones.[1] However, no such restrictions are given to Long Island residents, even though the amount of money being given to the districts is almost the same (New York has been allotted $1.8 billion; Long Island $1.7billion). The funding for structural repair is desperately needed, since many of the severely damaged homes will have to be not only repaired, but elevated as well, in accordance with new flood safety standards.[2]

The lack of consistency with regard to how monies can be used within a single state is causing consternation among not only New York City residents, many of whom are still not able to move back into their homes, but also among state and local officials. Senator Chuck Schumer wrote in a letter to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shawn Donovan that there must be uniformity with regard to relief funding for all residents of New York State. “A homeowner in Rockaway Beach will not be eligible for the same benefit that a homeowner in Long Beach, just 10 miles away, will be able to access."

The New Yorkers without flood insurance who are looking to repair their homes and businesses might have reason for hope, however, since the plans for the allotment of funds are “only preliminary,” according to a spokesperson for the City.

It was announced that residents who were still unable to inhabit their homes would be moved from Federal Emergency Management Agency-funded hotels into temporary apartments. FEMA would pay the rental, as well as administrative, costs for the initiative.

Any funding for rebuilding efforts will certainly come in handy, considering that many residences will have to be elevated in order to comply with the new safety standards. The price of elevating a structure is steep—between $10,000 and $100,000, not including the cost of any other related expenses, such as a new foundation. Nevertheless, certain structures lying within the current advisory flood maps will be required to be elevated. Others outside of the flood area will not necessarily have to be elevated, but homeowners will have to decide whether to bear the costs of elevation or contend with substantially higher insurance rates.

[1] Hurricane Sandy relief rules restrict New Yorkers from  using cash to rebuild 4/11/2013
[2] Harris, Elizabeth: Going Up a Few Feet, and Hoping to Avoid a Storm’s Path New York Times 4/15/2013

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