NLIHC State Coalition Partner, the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey (the Network), and its allies are celebrating a victory in their hard-fought effort to include provisions for sustainable and fair rebuilding in the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (NJDCA) Sandy Disaster Recovery Action Plan. On April 29, HUD announced the approval of $1.8 billion for Super Storm Sandy-related rebuilding efforts after amending the NJDCA submitted Action Plan to include suggestions made by advocates during the public comment period. The Network is heartened by HUD’s decision to require the state to equally address the needs of renters and homeowners impacted by the storm, while also making rebuilding in neighborhoods with the greatest damage and provisions for special needs populations a greater priority.
After many attempts to urge NJDCA to adopt their comments to the state plan, advocates submitted a letter to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan that urged HUD to require NJDCA to revise its plan, which provided more assistance to homeowners than renters – by a four to one margin –when the storm impacted the two almost equally (see Memo, 4/12/13). In addition, advocates asserted that the NJDCA plan would promote rebuilding communities without real consideration for rising sea levels and changing weather conditions. The letter, signed by more than 80 advocates, represents a broad coalition effort to insure rebuilding happens in a way that provides equal opportunity for low income and marginalized populations, and increased protections from future storms in areas rebuilt with recover dollars.
The following changes were made to the plan as a result of the advocacy efforts:
- Increased funding by $75 million to address the needs of renters. The NJDCA plan only allocated 22% of housing funds to renters, despite the fact that 43% of the state’s households that registered for FEMA assistance after the storm were renters. The HUD allocation increases the rental housing share to 30%.
- Increased funding to address damage to public housing from $5 million to $20 million and includes provisions for potential added funding in future rounds.
- Adds a plan to help people whose first language is not English access Sandy recovery programs.
- Requires detailed analysis of neighborhoods with the most damage and requires targeting of funds to hardest hit areas.
The Network, and other advocates in NJ, NY and CT will continue their partnership to support the Sandy Tax Relief Act of 2013 (H.R. 2137), which would increase the disaster recovery allocation of Low Income Housing Tax Credits by raising the per capita rate to $8, provide $250 million in New Markets Tax Credits and provide tax-exempt bonds for Sandy-impacted areas. Advocates are circulating a letter thanking Representative Pascrell (D-NJ) and the original co-sponsors of H.R. 2137 for their leadership in reintroducing the legislation in 2013, and their subsequent work in Congress to get the bill enacted. Organizations in Sandy-affected areas are asked to sign the letter and encourage other organizations to sign.
"Rebuilding New Jersey is a monumental task and we are ready to roll up our sleeves and get started," said Staci Berger, executive director of the Network. "HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan was right to require the Christie Administration to make their plan fairer and we're glad to see that there's an improved and more balanced allocation between homeowners and renters than what was originally proposed. Now everyone affected by Sandy has a more equal opportunity to move forward."
To view the H.R. 2137 thank you letter: http://tinyurl.com/m3kd5na
For more information contact Lorena Gaibor at firstname.lastname@example.org.