A New Jersey bill to help homeowners in build stronger, smarter, more storm-resistant homes has been approved by an Assembly panel. The legislation is sponsored by Assembly members Ruben Ramos, Grace Spencer and Tim Eustace.

Currently, a town can help finance the purchase and installation of renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements made by property owners. The municipality may provide for a “clean energy special assessment” to be imposed on those properties when the owner has requested the assessment in exchange for receiving assistance with the initial financing, but the only types of projects presently eligible for this treatment are the installation of renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements.

“Sandy was a wake-up call for many residents, underscoring the fact that climate change, development and other factors have rendered the current construction and layout of many homes impractical,” says Ramos. “This bill would help provide public financing for homeowners to renovate or build structures that are far more flood and hurricane resistant.”

Under the bill, water conservation projects, flood resistant construction projects, hurricane resistant construction projects, residential storm shelter projects, and safe room projects would also be eligible for a special assessment.

"Very few families these days have the financing and fortitude to continuously rebuild in the face of increasingly destructive storms,” says Spencer. “This would finance a strategic, long-term, smart rebuilding approach.”

The legislation would also allow qualified private non-profit entities to establish programs to finance the purchase and installation of eligible projects. They would be able to contract with towns that have gained approval to administer lending agreements.

"Many Sandy-affected families were struggling to make ends meet before the storm hit,” says Eustace. “Even more than before, they will need additional financing to rebuild their homes and begin restoring their lives.”

The bill has cleared by the Assembly Environment Committee. It will now go to the Assembly Speaker, who will decide when to post it for a floor vote.