Sandy housing aid tops $1B
Speaking in advance of the two-year mark since Superstorm Sandy, Gov. Chris Christie said more than $1 billion in federal housing recovery funds are either "out the door" or "in the pipeline" to homeowners impacted by the storm.
The majority of the funding has gone to participants in the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation Program, which has approved more than 8,800 homeowners for grants. Half have signed agreements, and nearly 3,600 are currently in the construction process.
Christie, speaking at a press conference in Toms River, said the state has refined the RREM Program in a number of ways recently, in order to speed up the process and boost the state's recovery. More than 150 homes are under construction in Toms River.
"We've streamlined the process so that program participants can now mail in documents and work remotely with their housing adviser, rather than making repeated trips to a housing recovery center," Christie said. "To accelerate repair work, we've reduced the number of site inspections."
The waitlist for RREM should be cleared when the next round of Sandy aid arrives next year, according to the state.
Affected homeowners have also benefited from a $10,000 check if they agreed to stay in their home county for at least three years.
The $1 billion-plus in funding has been allocated to a number of Sandy-related housing programs in the state, including the construction of 22 affordable housing projects in the nine counties most affected by Sandy.
"That will provide 1,454 units of affordable housing to low- and moderate-income working families," said Melissa Orsen, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Community Affairs.
The governor said New Jersey's recovery from an event like Sandy is a "multiyear effort."
"I completely understand that this has been frustrating, a frustrating time over the course of the last two years for many people," Christie said. "It's been frustrating for me too at times, and that's the hardest part of getting through all this."
An estimated 365,000 homes were severely damaged or destroyed in New Jersey on Oct. 29, 2012.
Since then, more than $6.6 billion in aid funding was provided to New Jersey for recovery, according to FEMA.