Public Comment Period Opens for Plan to Transfer $75 Million to Blue Acres and $60 Million to Fund for Restoration of Multifamily Housing Without Impacting Ongoing Recovery Programs
Trenton, NJ – The Christie Administration today announced a proposal to reallocate $135 million in Superstorm Sandy recovery funds to expand the Blue Acres Buyout Program to reduce the number of homes at risk of chronic flooding and to bolster the Fund for Restoration of Multifamily Housing (FRM) to help finance additional affordable housing in those counties most impacted by Sandy.
Under the proposal, the State would transfer $75 million to the Blue Acres Buyout Program in order to help New Jersey families in flood zones move out of harm’s way and to enhance community flood resiliency. The State would also shift $60 million to the FRM Program to fund additional affordable housing projects.
None of the proposed reallocations of Sandy recovery funds would affect any existing funding commitment to any individual, business, community or project.
Recognized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as a “National Best Practice,” the goal of the Blue Acres Buyout Program is to dramatically reduce the risk of future catastrophic flood damage to the State’s housing stock and to help New Jersey families move out of harm’s way through buyouts. The State 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. With an additional $75 million, the State will be able 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 (RREM) Program, the Landlord Rental Repair Program (LRRP), and the Unsafe Structures Demolition Program. The State has allocated more than $1.3 billion to the RREM Program. To date, more than 5,000 homes have been rebuilt through RREM and more than $874 million has been disbursed to eligible homeowners. With RREM now projected to serve approximately 7,600 homeowners, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA), which administers the program, has concluded that a funding shift of $40.4 million (amounting to 3 percent of the total RREM allocation) to the Blue Acres Program would not impact its ability to fully serve all eligible RREM homeowners. Similarly, the proposed transfer of $15.9 million from LRRP and $18.7 million from the Unsafe Structures Demolition Program to Blue Acres would not affect DCA’s ability to fully serve all eligible landlords or address all eligible unsafe structures.
The proposed shift of $60 million to the FRM Program would add to the $594.5 million the State has already allocated to the program, which is administered by the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA) and provides funding to facilitate the creation or rehabilitation of quality, affordable rental housing in counties severely impacted by Superstorm Sandy. The State estimates the $60 million would produce approximately 255 to 350 more affordable housing units in addition to the nearly 2,400 affordable units that have already been built through the FRM Program and the 2,800 affordable units that have been approved for FRM funding and are either in construction or about to start construction. The $60 million will be reallocated from a total of 16 different recovery programs with excess funding. Importantly, the proposed $60 million reallocation from these 16 other programs will not impact the State’s ability to fully serve all applicants in those programs.
Before the State can reallocate the $135 million in funds, it must amend the New Jersey Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Action Plan, which details the various activities the recovery funds support, to reflect the proposed changes. The Action Plan and all previously adopted amendments to the Plan guide the State’s use of the Sandy recovery funding provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The proposal announced today constitutes Amendment 21 of the Action Plan and requires a 30-day public comment period that must include a public hearing.
The public comment period begins today, April 19, 2017, and closes at 5:00 p.m. on May 19, 2017. The public hearing is scheduled from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 11, 2017, at the Little Ferry Borough Hall, 215-217 Liberty Street, Little Ferry, NJ, 07643. Individuals can comment on the proposed amendment at the public hearing, by submitting their comments via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by mailing comments to the attention of Constituent Services, Sandy Recovery Division, NJ Department of Community Affairs, 101 South Broad Street, P.O. Box 823, Trenton, NJ 08625. All comments are treated equally regardless of the means of submission. After the public comment period closes, DCA will formally respond to the public comments and then will submit the proposed amendment to HUD for review and approval.
Action Plan Amendment 21 can be viewed in English and Spanish at www.renewjerseystronger.org/plans-reports.