Bonacic: State Offers Housing Assistance For Flooded Region

 

State Senator John Bonacic, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Housing, Construction, and Community Development, today announced a $45 million housing assistance package for flooded regions.

The unprecedented effort, funded in large part by funds Senator Bonacic advocated for during the State budget process, involvesthe State’s three housing agencies – Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), State of New York Mortgage Agency (SONYMA) and Affordable Housing Corporation (AHC). The agencies willprovide approximately $45 million in funding for capital projects and housing programs for the four counties of our Senate District - Delaware, Orange, Sullivan, and Ulster, as well as eight othercounties hardest-hit by the floods of 2006.

The funds will provide both immediate and long-term housing assistance to those victims whose homes have been completely destroyed or have suffered major damage. In addition, small retail business owners who have sustained flood damage to their stores and storefronts will receive assistance for rehabilitation and repairs.

In addition, $5 million in state funding will be made available to help purchase properties that have experienced persistent flooding and are likely to face additional threats of floods in the future. This State funding, which could leverage up to $15 million in FEMA funds, will be available to homeowners who meet the program criteria and who want to move, or rebuild in a new, safer location. The acquired parcels will be used to preserve open space, manage wetlands, and provide areas for recreational activities.

Senator Bonacic said, "Communities were devastated by this year's floods. Re-building and expanding our housing stock, and helping our small businesses make needed repairs, is a crucial part of recovery. I will continue to work with the Governor and our communities to provide the assistance our region needs to recover."

SONYMA and AHC President/CEO Stephen J. Hunt said, "In addition to attending to the urgent needs of New Yorkers whose lives have been ravaged by these floods, we want to make sure that those eligible families and individuals who were homeowners before the flooding, are still homeowners after these trying times have passed."

The specifics of the $45 million are as follows:

* SONYMA is making $5 million in low-interest rate mortgage funds available to current homeowners in the affected counties to allow them to purchase new homes. For these borrowers, SONYMA will offer closing cost assistance and waive the first-time homebuyer and other requirements. Additionally, SONYMA will work with families and individuals in the affected counties who currently have a SONYMA mortgage to help address their concerns about how their mortgage obligations will be affected by this natural disaster.

* AHC will make available up to $10 million in grants to assist eligible homeowners purchasing new or rehabilitated homes and, where appropriate, to make repairs to existing homes. Grants are not made directly to individual homebuyers or homeowners, but to eligible government and non-government sponsors that develop affordable housing or assist homeowners in funding necessary repairs. The grants can provide up to $35,000 per unit of assistance subject to AHC’s normal programmatic requirements. One requirement is that AHC funds cannot exceed 60% of the total development cost. Additionally, if an AHC grant is used to assist in the acquisition of an existing home, at least 51% of the grant must be dedicated to the rehabilitation of the home.

* The $30 million in DHCR-administered funding for aid to disaster areas was approved under the Low Income Housing Trust Fund program, the HOME program, the Federal Low Income Housing Credit program, the New York Main Street program, the Access to Home program, and the RESTORE program. In addition, DHCR is also making rental assistance available for the affected counties. Families displaced by the floods that are in immediate need of housing and who meet program criteria will be given first preference in the selection process for 100 Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers. In order to be considered for Section 8 assistance, a referral from a FEMA Disaster Assistance Center will be required. All such assistance will be provided in accordance with DHCR's Voucher Program Statewide Administrative Plan.

FLOOD BUYOUT FUNDS ALSO AVAILABLE

In the wake of natural flooding disasters, property owners may face difficult options in deciding whether to spend precious resources to rebuild in areas likely to experience future repetitive and catastrophic flooding. With the support of their communities, many families in harm’s way have rebuilt their lives and created new homes in safer locations. The Federal Emergency Management Agency's Hazard Mitigation Program, in combination with state and local resources, provides states and communities with the ability to offer property owners this option of moving to safer ground. Under this program, local governments can acquire from willing sellers property that is likely to experience future flooding, and thereby prevent future losses of life and property.

To support homeowners who choose this option, the State will provide up to $5 million, as the combined State and local match for land acquisition under the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Program. Since it is anticipated that Federal funds will be available for the full 75% Federal share, as much as $20 million is expected to be made available for land acquisition under this program.

FEMA funds for this program are expected to be available this fall. The State will work with the local communities in the flood disaster area to explain program specifics and how they can begin identifying properties likely to qualify for this program. While the State is responsible for prioritizing and selecting individual projects under the program, and submitting them to FEMA for approval, individual projects must be consistent with the State's mitigation planning objectives, and local communities may recommend specific projects to the State. This is an entirely voluntary program for property owners. After the property is acquired by the local community, it must be restricted to open space, recreational and wetlands management uses in perpetuity. Additional information on how the program works can be found on the FEMA website at: www.fema.gov/government/grant/hmgp/index.shtm.

For more information on DHCR and its programs, please visit www.dhcr.state.ny.us or call 1-866-ASK-DHCR. More information about SONYMA and AHC assistance for homeowners in the counties hardest-hit by the floods of 2006 is available at www.nyhomes.org.

oday’s announcement of housing assistance brings the total amount of disaster relief funds available to $110 million. The housing assistance funding of $50 million is in addition to the $60 million in disaster relief funds already made available. The $35 million New York State Flood Relief Program centers around the $25 million State Individual and Family Grant Program, which provides individuals, families, and small businesses with grants of up to $5,000 for documented flood losses not covered by insurance or other government programs. This assistance program is administered by the State Department of Labor.

The State's $25 million Comprehensive Flood Relief Package supplements existing federal disaster relief programs and addresses potential gaps in insurance coverage and eligibility for residents, and small and large businesses that were impacted by flooding. ESD’s Small Business Flood Recovery Grant Program, a $12 million program, is available as well as an additional $10 million in discretionary Economic Development Fund Grants for non-retail businesses suffering substantial damage and employing more than 100 employees. Three million dollars from the Governor’s Office for Small Cities (GOSC) has been made available to residents impacted by the flooding for grants of up to $2,500 to assist with immediate housing needs caused by flooding. GOSC will work with local governments to disburse the funds to eligible recipients.

A toll-free hotline was established by to assist flood victims with the State Individual and Family Grant (IFG) applications. The phone number is 1-888-7-NYS-AID (1-888-769-7243). Operators are available from Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Information on all of New York State’s flood relief programs is available at www.ny.gov under Flood Relief.