Proposal would allow municipalities to use money set aside for affordable housing
BY TOM HESTER SR.
Five Democratic legislators announced Thursday that they intend to introduce legislation to help low and moderate income home owners and business people offset the costs for flood and wind damage to their property caused by Hurricane Irene.
The legislation also would enable local governments to use money they’ve been mandated to set aside for the development of affordable housing, something many municipalities have attempted to avoid going back as far as 1985.
The proposal would create the Municipal Natural Disaster Relief Grant Program to enable local governments to provide aid to homeowners and small businesses for repairs necessary to occupy their houses or businesses if the costs are not sufficiently covered by federal FEMA assistance.
Cities and towns would be permitted to utilize up to 15 percent of their revenues generated by affordable housing development fees and deposited in such municipal trust funds. Grants of up to $10,000 for local residential property owners or up to $15,000 for non-residential local property owners would be provided for damages caused by a flood, hurricane or other natural disaster for which there was a declared state of emergency.
The grants would need to be utilized for the purchase of “systems equipment such as plumbing, heating, electrical, boilers, kitchen appliances, or other mechanical facilities or installation or repair needed to obtain a certificate of occupancy for the property.
The municipality would need to pass a local ordinance to great the local program which would need to be approved by the state. Applications for the program would be accepted up to six months after the state approval is granted.
The legislation was drafted in response to concerns raised by Monroe Township local officials about the financial struggle many residents are still facing following the devastating flooding from Hurricane Irene on Aug. 28. Nearly 200 homes in Monroe were significantly damaged by flooding associated with the hurricane.
Similar legislation was passed after Hurricane Floyd swept through New Jersey in 1999 leaving parts of the state under several feet of water.
“While the storms may have passed, the damage left behind has had a permanent effect on thousands of New Jersey families. FEMA assistance is extremely helpful, but, in many cases, it simply isn’t enough to get a home or small business fully operational again,” Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo (D-Mercer) said. “ Many working families do not have the financial resources to make the necessary repairs to their homes in this current economy. This local grant program would help towns provide that extra assistance to homeowners so they can get fully back up on their feet again.”
“Homes and businesses across the state sustained significant damage in the wake of Hurricane Irene and the storms that followed,” Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Middlesex) said. “While federal assistance has been made available, for many families and small business owners it just won’t be enough. This grant program will provide critical funding to help flood victims who otherwise would be unable to afford necessary repairs.”
Joining DeAngelo and Greenstein in sponsoring the legislation are Assembly members Dan and Sen. Benson (D-Mercer) and Connie Wagner (D-Bergen) and Sen. Bob Gordon (D-Bergen).