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New Jersey Experience with Sandy Rebuilding Suggests Ways to Improve Federal Assistance

August 5th, 2013 by

U.S. Air Force photo of Sandy damage to the Jersey Shore.

U.S. Air Force photo of Sandy damage to the Jersey Shore.

In anticipation of a forthcoming Notice from the federal Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that will provide guidance on the use of the next round of federal Sandy relief funds, New Jersey Future joined with Fair Share Housing Center and the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey to offer a letter of recommendations.

HUD is expected to issue this Notice in August or September for the second round of Sandy funding.  The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs will then propose an Action Plan describing how the state will use the funds.  (New Jersey Future issued comments on the first Action Plan in March.)

The joint letter just submitted points out that while previous Notice requirements have had a positive impact on the distribution of funds to date, our insights from the recovery show that there are areas in which increased guidance from HUD can help to ensure an equitable and resilient recovery.  The letter suggests updates to the Notice that focus on:

  • More specific guidance on how recovery programs build sustainable communities, including greater emphasis on anticipating and accommodating sea level rise.  For example, HUD should require grantees like New Jersey to identify existing and future high-hazard risk areas and make that information publicly available.
  • Improving the provision of housing for people of all income levels.  As one example, HUD should require grantees like New Jersey to disclose the demographics of the people who need housing assistance, and those who have received it, to clarify the “unmet need.”
  • Greater emphasis on robust public participation in spending decisions.  For example, HUD should require grantees to provide an interactive public process, with a public hearing and 15-day public comment period before state Action Plans are finalized.

New Jersey Future’s contributions to the letter build in part on Clarification Guidance published in the Federal Register on April 19, 2013, that requires grantees to recognize and accommodate sea level rise and to use best available data to determine the location of recovery projects and activities.

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