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HUD Requires Christie Administration to Change Sandy Plan To Gain Approval

Posted by Laura Denker on April 29th 2013

The Action Plan approved by HUD today for $1.8 billion in federal Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funding differs in many ways from the Action Plan submitted by the State just last month. The changes required by HUD begin to address the Christie Administration’s pervasive exclusion of some groups impacted by Sandy from recovery, though more work remains to be done.

“We thank Secretary Donovan for recognizing that the Christie Administration had not proposed enough in recovery to support renters, Spanish speaking families, and lower-income people impacted by the storm,” Kevin D. Walsh, Associate Director of Fair Share Housing Center said. “HUD’s action today is a good start, but more work remains to ensure that everyone impacted in Sandy has a place.”

The final plan approved today includes the following changes from the plan submitted by New Jersey to HUD in late March:

  • Increased funding for renters: While the final plan still disproportionately favors homeowners, $75 million in funding was shifted in the plan to address the needs of renters. The Christie Administration had allocated only 22% of housing funds to renters, despite the fact that 43% of New Jersey households registering for FEMA assistance post-Sandy were renters. The final plan increases that share to 30%, which is an improvement but still not sufficient.
  • Adding a plan to address people impacted with Limited English Proficiency: The Christie Administration had initially failed to provide a plan for how people for whom English was not a first language could access recovery programs, or even publish the initial plan for comment in Spanish.
  • The final plan addresses greater access to Sandy programs for people whose first language is Spanish, and some greater access for primary speakers of other languages.
  • Addressing damage to public housing: The initial plan only provided $5 million for rebuilding public housing impacted by Sandy in municipalities from Jersey City to Ocean City. The revised plan increases that allocation to $20 million and includes provisions for potential added funding in future rounds.
  • Adding more detailed analysis of neighborhoods with the most damage: The initial plan omitted several HUD-required analyses of which neighborhoods had the most damage. The final plan adds that information, though still does not do enough to target funds to the hardest hit communities.

These changes were among those that Fair Share Housing Center along with 70 other civil rights, housing, planning and religious groups urged HUD to require.

Walsh emphasized that while HUD’s requirements are a good first step, there is still much to be done to ensure the Christie Administration manages the recovery in a way that includes everybody and complies with fair housing laws.

HUD’s announcement comes at a time when the Christie Administration is planning to take funds intended for lower-income families, people with special needs, and seniors, a move opposed by municipalities and housing advocates. Of the $142.2 million the State is attempting to seize, $81.5 million is in the nine counties designated by the federal government as hardest hit by Sandy. The administration has scheduled a meeting on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. to vote on seizing the funds.

“It is especially troubling that the Christie Administration, at the same time it is receiving federal funds for Sandy, is trying to block homes for people impacted from Sandy from being developed.” Walsh said. “As HUD’s requirements show, it is time for a new direction that addresses the needs of everybody impacted by Sandy.”

The revised Action Plan is available here.