Homeowners Can Apply Now for Disaster Recovery Funds to Assist in Elevating Their Homes
At the start of the Memorial Day weekend, on Friday, May 24, the Christie administration launched the reNew Jersey Stronger housing assistance initiative to assist homeowners impacted by Superstorm Sandy. Eligible homeowners can apply for grant assistance at renewjerseystronger.org or by calling 1-855-SANDYHM (1-855-726-3946).
The grants are designed to encourage homeowners to resettle in their primary residences and help them reconstruct, rehabilitate, elevate and mitigate their homes.
“We are working incredibly hard to get money out to Sandy-impacted individuals as quickly as possible, and today’s announcement demonstrates our commitment to this mission,” said Gov. Chris Christie on Friday. “Sandy may have damaged homes in New Jersey, but it did not destroy New Jerseyans’ spirits. With the help of initiatives such as reNew Jersey Stronger housing grants, we will be back, stronger than ever.”
The launch of the housing assistance programs comes less than a month after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approved New Jersey’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Disaster Recovery Action Plan. The plan details how the state will utilize $1,829,520,000 in federal funding to help homeowners, renters, businesses and communities impacted by Superstorm Sandy. The reNew Jersey Stronger housing assistance initiative will utilize $780 million of the allocation.
Starting June 8, homeowners can also apply in person at Sandy Housing Assistance Centers, which will be located in those counties most impacted by the storm. Housing counselors both at the centers and over the phone can help applicants navigate the entire process by providing support and clear guidance, said Richard Constable III, commissioner of the N.J. Department of Community Affairs. The DCA will administer the distribution of CDBG disaster recovery funds for New Jersey.
Under the reNew Jersey Stronger housing initiative, homeowners whose primary residences were damaged by the storm in the nine most-impacted counties – Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean and Union – may apply for two grant programs. Vacation homes, second homes and recreational vehicles or trailers are not eligible for the programs based on federal restrictions on the use of the funds.
The Homeowner Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program provides eligible homeowners up to $150,000 in grant funds to aid the reconstruction, rehabilitation, elevation and mitigation of damaged primary homes. The program is intended to fill the gap between the costs needed to repair the home and other sources of funds the homeowner has received to repair their home such as insurance payments or assistance from FEMA or the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Additionally, the program will help homeowners with the construction process by developing repair specifications, identifying qualified builders to do the construction work and ensuring the quality of the work completed. Seventy percent of the funds will be reserved for low- to moderate-income households in accordance with federal requirements.
All applicants under the RREM Program must have registered for assistance with FEMA and must have a household adjusted gross annual income of less than $250,000. Priority will be given to homes that are deemed “substantially damaged” (damages exceed 50 percent of a home’s assessed value) as a result of Sandy.
The Homeowner Resettlement Program is aimed at encouraging Sandy-impacted homeowners to resettle in the same county as their damaged home and provides $10,000 grants to encourage them to resettle in their existing home or resettle in another within the same county. The grants will help to restore home values and stabilize many devastated communities. Homeowners must agree to remain in the county of their damaged residence for three consecutive years following the grant award. Sixty percent of the funds will be reserved for low- to moderate-income households in accordance with federal requirements.
All applicants under the Resettlement Program must have registered for assistance with FEMA and must have sustained at least $8,000 in damages or more than one foot of flooding on the first floor as a result of Sandy.
The federal funding for these grant programs is limited; it is estimated that 6,000 households will receive a RREM grant and 18,000 households will receive a resettlement grant. While there is no formal deadline for accepting applications, there will be an initial application period that will run from May 24 to June 30. All completed RREM and resettlement applications received by June 30 will then be in the first group to be processed. Once the application period closes, selection will prioritize those homeowners with the most damage (i.e., substantial, severe and major), whose homes are in the most impacted counties of Atlantic, Monmouth and Ocean and who have low to moderate incomes.
Whether individuals applied online, over the phone, or in person at a Sandy Housing Assistance Center, the state will ensure that all applicants have an equal chance to be selected. To accomplish this, the order in which applicants will be selected for processing (following the end of the initial application period) will be determined by an electronically random, ordering process. In early July, applicants will be notified of their place on the list and whether they will receive an award out of HUD’s initial allocation of funding. Anyone who is not successful in getting an award will be placed on a waiting list pending a future allocation from HUD. An announcement on future allocations is expected in September.
Applications will continue to be accepted after June 30, 2013, but these applicants will be processed only after all the most impacted homeowners from the first group have been served.
For more information on the reNew Jersey Stronger housing assistance initiative, including details about the application process, determination of eligibility and award calculation, visit renewjerseystronger.org or call the hotline number, 1-855-SANDYHM (1-855-726-3946). Locations and directions to the Sandy Housing Assistance Centers that are opening June 8 will be posted at renewjerseystronger.org as the information becomes available.
— Pat Johnson