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New Jersey Would Reallocate Sandy Recovery Funds to Blue Acres, Affordable Housing Rentals

News Source:  The Sandpaper

Date:  April 26, 2017

By:  PAT JOHNSON

The Christie administration has announced a proposal to reallocate $135 million in Superstorm Sandy recovery funds to expand the Blue Acres Buyout Program and the Fund for Restoration of Multifamily Housing in those counties most impacted by Sandy.

Under the proposal, New Jersey would transfer $75 million to the Blue Acres Buyout Program to purchase homes in repetitive flood zones and shift $60 million to the FRM Program to fund additional affordable housing projects.But before the proposal takes effect, the public is invited to comment on it.

None of the existing funding commitments of Sandy recovery funds would be reallocated.

New Jersey initially set a goal for the Blue Acres Program of buying out at least 1,300 homes and targeted funding at $300 million. To date, the Blue Acres Program has already secured funding for buyouts of 934 properties in 14 municipalities across eight counties. As demand for buyouts continues, the state faces an unmet need for funding to acquire and demolish approximately 300 additional homes that remain in flood-prone areas. According to the administration, an additional $75 million would allow the state to continue buyouts in many of its most vulnerable flood zones and/or expand into other communities that have yet to be served by the Blue Acres program.

The $75 million to be transferred to Blue Acres would be shifted from the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation Program, ($40.4 million) the Landlord Rental Repair Program ($15.9 million), and the Unsafe Structures Demolition Program ($18.7 million). The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, which administers the program, has concluded that the funding shift would not affect the existing programs.

The $60 million added to the FRM program would be reallocated from a total of 16 different recovery programs with excess funding. Importantly, the proposed $60 million reallocation from these 16 other programs would not impact the state’s ability to fully serve all applicants in those programs.

The state has already allocated $594.5 million to the FRM program to build nearly 2,400 affordable rental units in Sandy-affected counties plus 2,800 affordable units that have been approved for FRM funding and are either in construction or about to start construction. The state estimates the additional $60 million would produce approximately 255 to 350 more affordable housing units. The FRM program is administered by the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency.

Before the state can reallocate the $135 million in funds, it must amend the New Jersey Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Action Plan, which details the various activities the recovery funds support, to reflect the proposed changes.

A required 30-day public comment period started April 19 and culminates at 5 p.m. on May 19. The public may comment online at sandy.publiccomment@dca.nj.gov or by mail to Constituent Services, Sandy Recovery Division, N.J. Department of Community Affairs, 101 South Broad St., P.O. Box 823, Trenton, N.J. 08625; or by attending the public hearing in person at the Little Ferry Borough Hall, 215-217 Liberty St. in Little Ferry. The DCA will respond to the comments and submit the proposed amendment to HUD for review.

Action Plan Amendment 21 can be viewed at renewjerseystronger.org/plans-reports.

According to the DCA, the state has allocated more than $1.3 billion to the RREM Program for primary households to rebuild. Since 2012, more than 5,000 homes have been rebuilt, and more than $874 million has been disbursed to eligible homeowners. RREM is projected to serve approximately 7,600 homeowners.

— Pat Johnson

patjohnson@thesandpaper.net

 

 


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