Today, U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, and Charles E. Schumer announced that the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) agency revised its regulations to allow New York City to expedite reimbursement for home repairs and rehabilitation for hundreds of Sandy homeowners currently deemed ineligible. Previously, HUD regulations blocked the City from conducting environmental reviews for Sandy victims' homes that were "substantially damaged," which is defined as losses greater than half the value of their home. According to City estimates, this restrictive policy means hundreds of homeowners who already made repairs to their homes are ineligible to receive CDBG reimbursement.
After the Senators' push, the new rule change would lift federal restrictions for the City, allowing the City to conduct environmental reviews for all homeowners, which is a prerequisite for eligible homeowners seeking disaster recovery aid.
"This is great news. HUD's new policy will remove burdensome restrictions that hinder the City from providing critical disaster relief to homeowners devastated by the storm," said Senator Gillibrand. "I will continue to work to ensure that no red tape stands in the way of getting Sandy-impacted homeowners fully back on their feet."
"This revised rule is critical in making sure that Sandy-victims have access to the relief necessary to get their lives back to normal," said Senator Schumer. " After the storm, New York City residents made repairs to their damaged homes and I fought hard for flexible funding, like CDBG, in the Sandy Relief Bill so that reimbursements could be provided to those in-need. HUD's updated rule will now maximize the number of Sandy-victims eligible for this reimbursement."
"Senator Gillibrand has provided a great service to New York's homeowners still recovering from Sandy, through her tireless efforts to help them better understand how they can obtain disaster-related funding through HUD and her efforts to expand CDBG-DR eligibility to those making repairs to their properties regardless of the damage level," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. "We understand the need to have as many resources available as possible and HUD is committed to doing everything we can to help people rebuild and recover from this storm."
In June, New York City launched "NYC Build it Back," a CDBG program that assists homeowners, landlords and tenants across the five boroughs whose homes were impacted by Sandy. "NYC Build it Back" is funded with approximately $720 million in federal disaster recovery funds passed by Congress earlier this year, which included an initial $1.77 billion CDBG-Disaster Recovery allocation through HUD.
Any property that receives Sandy-related CDBG funds distributed by the City must undergo an environmental review. Previously, "NYC Build it Back" can only conduct retroactive environmental reviews for repairs if the cost is less than half the value of the home, leaving many homeowners ineligible for federal aid and paying out-of-pocket for repairs. Now that the restrictions have been lifted, the City can move forward and expedite reimbursement for those who were deemed ineligible.
Earlier this month, Senator Gillibrand led New York City's entire Congressional delegation in urging Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan to cut bureaucratic tape within the CDBG program and called for key HUD reforms in an effort to lift unnecessary barriers to the CDBG-Disaster Recovery program.