4-1-13 Community Conversation on CDBG-DR Plan A

Community Conversation on CDBG-DR Plan A
April 1, 2013, 5-7pm at St. Charles Rectory
Introduction: Derek Tobacco
Presentation of the Plan: Peter Spencer from the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Recovery

The mayor’s office put out a 14 day public comment period on the plan. Thursday is the deadline for public comment. Public comments will be included in the action plan and the Mayor’s office must show HUD how they will address them.

Housing portion of the action plan: $720 million will go toward housing – public, multi-family, single family and two family housing. $100 million going towards public housing, particularly NYCHA housing. Multi-family housing has $250 million dedicated to it. $350 million toward single family housing. Households that aren’t habitable are prioritized. Everyone would be assigned an individualized housing counselor to go out and do a full assessment of the house. If the difference between what you got from FEMA and the need to rebuild your home is $100,000 then this money would go to a contractor to get your house back to that level. There may be rental assistance programs as well. They don’t want there to be a formula to determine who gets what, but to take everyone’s situation into consideration on an individual basis.

Buy out program: the government purchases your land at its undeveloped value and it can only be used for open space, another house cannot be built there.

Flood maps will be put out June 1st at the earliest. Will probably be spread out further than what the finalized maps are – but this guarantees that people who start rebuilding won’t have to go higher. On Staten Island, the requirements for raising homes may be high.

To have flood insurance with the city, you have to abide by the flood maps of the city.

Question and Answer
(Residents were asked to write down and submit their questions for the facilitator to read aloud. Peter Spencer and Brad Gair from the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Recovery responded to the community’s questions)

If your home has to be knocked down, who will help with the rental assistance while the home is being rebuilt?
Peter referred to the tsa program but admitted that this will end in April. He acknowledged that the city will need to find a place for people to live as their homes are rebuilt.

Will people who already spent money on rebuilding be able to be reimbursed by the city?
There isn’t currently a plan for reimbursing people for work they’ve already done on their homes. This is because they are prioritizing helping those with no resources to rebuild.

The government encouraged people to take care of their homes and the mold right away. What if people have photos of the before and after? Can’t they be reimbursed?
Peter advised people to wait before putting substantial investments into rebuilding their homes.

Much of the Rapid Repairs work was not done properly. How can we be assured that this won’t happen again?
This is the first time the city has done anything of this sort. They will use what they learned from Rapid Repairs to smooth out problems and they will prioritize customer service. There was difficulty with duplication from contractors who hired out local sub-contractors.

Can CDBG money go toward infrastructure?
Yes. It has yet to be decided what projects these will be, but a great deal of funding will go toward sidewalks, roads, beaches, dunes, etc. 

Will there be grants available for raising homes where insurance money doesn’t cover this expense?
Their priority is to meet the unmet need. If $200,000 is needed to rebuild and elevate your home and you’ve only received $100,000 through insurance, then grants will be available to meet this need.

What if someone on Hunter Ave wants to be bought out but her neighbors don’t? How does she find out what her house is worth?
If you don’t qualify for a buy-out then you may be eligible for a grant to rebuild/elevate your home. The city assessments will estimate the worth of your house very close to market value. The dept. of finance website can offer some guidance on this. 

Why only 14 rather than 30 days for public comment?
The typical public comment period for a CDBG is one week. They extended it to two weeks because of the holiday. This is the first allocation.

How has the city been doing outreach to inform residents of the CDBG-DR?
They have been hosting housing recovery forums and visiting community groups. They will continue to do outreach for future allocations. Their office can be directly contacted through nyc.gov.

One resident encouraged the mayor’s office to use social media. The mayor’s office has been using social media and can use text messaging as well. They want to hear people’s comments.

The plan does not reflect how unmet needs will be determined by damage and income. How is the city measuring need?
Homes with the greatest amount of damage owned by those with the lowest amount of resources will be prioritized based on individualized assessments.

Will homeowners have a choice of contractors or will programming be contracted out in a way similar to Rapid Repair?
There will be 3-5 pre-approved model homes for residents to choose from to make it easier on residents, although rebuilding does not have to be done this way. They are still determining what contractors to use.

Will grants be available to people with less than 50% damage?
Yes. There won’t be grants for elevating homes in these situations with this program, but FEMA should be putting out guidelines for another program in a month that may help with this. It would take 2.5 billion to elevate all homes in the flood zone. 

$30,000 from FEMA won’t get them anywhere given the high cost of elevating homes. Those who sustained less than 50% in damages are stuck!

New flood maps were coming out this summer regardless of Sandy. See Biggert-Waters flood insurance reform act. When the cost to repair is more than 50% value of the structure itself, you have to rebuild, so grants will be available. They don’t have funds available for those who sustained less than 50% damage.

How will the city handle housing developments that are impossible to raise?
There are ways of doing elevation without raising the whole building. These will have to be considered on an individual basis.

The dept. of transportation told a homeowner they will be raising the streets. Does this mean they will be raising their yard as well?
These cases will have to be looked at individually.

Does the city have plans to develop sea walls in the Midland beach area?
There’s a separate initiative that the mayor has started to look at – a 2030 plan based on climate change.

The housing department said it wouldn’t be rebuild in Midland. This conversation needs to be addressed in a different meeting.

When will a specialist be assigned after the homeowner applies? 
Within a couple of weeks.

What is the timeline for the program to actually start?
Comments will be incorporated over the next two weeks, then HUD must approve, and applications should start to be accepted early May. 

Do we need to get our own proof of substantial damage or will the department help with that? 
The dept will help with that. They will send someone out to do an individualized assessment of the damage to the home.

Are grants available to rebuild if in a buy-out zone?
Yes. You can also rebuild in a B zone. The state is using pre-storm market value to buy out homes.

Is there a website where the grant application will be available? 
Yes, it will be on nyc.gov. There’s also 311 and application centers in the community. 

How long after you apply will the funds be available?
Within a couple weeks of applying, someone will come to assess your home. When rebuilding happens depends on how quickly documentation can be provided and the complexity of the rebuilding. 

There’s currently an appeal process for red-tagged houses. But there’s not a process for green or yellow tagged homes determined as unlivable by an engineer to get them tagged red. Is there a way to change this so the city can pay for demolition in these cases?

One woman said her home was red tagged but not demolished.  

Only homes determined to be dangerous (not necessarily all red tagged homes) are being demolished by the city.

What if you have a home that needs to be raised but it’s not cost effective to do so? 
There may be many cases where they start from scratch with a new rebuild.

How will they find out if their area is a target area for a buy out? 
The only area targeted for a buy-out for open space on SI is Oakwood Beach.

Can we have a pool of local contractors to be considered? 
They haven’t decided on what contractors they will use yet but would like to stay local. Some funds will be used for re-establishing renters.

What about homes that the homeowners have left but have had mold growing in them for months? 
Nicole Malliotakis said they are working on this but are having trouble getting access to these homes. There are cases where people had mold remediation done but no certification.

Can the mayor’s office do moisture readings so they can access programs that provide sheetrock?
No, mold is present wherever there was flooding. There is no reliable way to determine that no mold is present.

The Mayor’s fund, the American Red Cross, and the Robinhood foundation raised money to remediate 2,000 houses with 16 million dollars. Call 1-855-740-MOLD to apply.

Invitation to Submit Comments  
(Attendees were invited to submit comments directly on nyc.gov using available laptops. Fifty questions/comments written out by attendees were submitted to the website by Susannah, Dana, and Karen).

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