The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) officially approved how New Jersey plans to allocate $1.8 billion in federal Sandy aid, but fair housing advocates are concerned the plan doesn't do enough to help renters and lower income residents.
Most of the federal aid, or $1.159 billion dollars, will go towards housing needs. The state will allocate $780 million dollars in grants to programs focused on rebuilding, reconstructing, elevating and mitigating heavily damaged primary homes. Renters will have access to $379.52 million in grants.
"Renters’ needs were down-played, while homeowners’ needs were over played. So, they got more money,” said Kevin Walsh, the Associate Director for the advocacy group Fair Share Housing. According to Walsh, renters accounted for 43% of FEMA assistance applications but will only see 22% of the funds.
According to New Jersey’s recovery plan, 40,500 primary resident homes were considered 'severely' damaged compared 15,611 rentals. Yet, 74% of those renters are considered low or middle-to-low-income.
Walsh said his group will continue to work for equitable distribution of Sandy-related aid, “We are going to ensure that the guidelines are fair to people, especially lower-income families who were impacted by the storm."
The state plans on rolling out applications by May. The federal aid, which also includes $200 million for businesses and $224 million for infrastructure and public service programs, will be distributed on a first-come-first-served basis.