The federal government has expanded housing aid for families and individuals displaced by Hurricane Sandy, which battered the East Coast at the end of October, and is requesting more resources for recovery.
On Dec. 7, President Obama requested $60.4 billion in new spending for response, recovery, and mitigation resources related to Sandy damage. This funding, which needs congressional approval, would include efforts to repair damage to homes and public infrastructure and to help prepare for future storms.
Before 2012 came to an end, the Senate approved the $60.4 billion aid package. However, at press time, the House of Representatives decided not to vote on the package, instead leaving it for the 113th Congress to decide.
The Internal Revenue Service announced in mid-November that it will temporarily suspend low-income housing tax credit tenant-income limitations and non-transiency rules to allow project owners to rent their vacant units to individuals and families who lost their homes due to Hurricane Sandy even if those individuals do not qualify as low-income persons. Notice 2012-68, which is similar to the relief provided to victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, requires owners to receive prior approval from their state housing agency to temporarily house displaced individuals up until Nov. 30, 2013. Projects in any state are eligible regardless of whether a major disaster was declared in the state where the project is located.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) also announced that it is giving public housing agencies greater flexibility in calculating rent payments in areas experiencing increased demand for rental housing, and it is allowing for the agencies to increase a payment standard up to 120 percent of the published Fair Market Rent to give low-income families more options to find available housing.
“Simply by giving local housing authorities greater flexibility in calculating rental assistance to these families can make all the difference in finding a suitable home or not. This is just one more example of how the Obama administration is cutting red tape to make our programs work better following a disaster,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, who President Obama appointed to oversee long-term recovery in the disaster region, in a statement.
HUD also is allowing seniors housing providers the flexibility to open up vacant units to evacuees younger than 55 without jeopardizing a community’s qualification for certain exemptions under the Fair Housing Act and is relaxing regulations for dozens of “participating jurisdictions” in impacted areas so they can quickly rehabilitate single-family housing and use vacant rental units to quickly house displaced families.
On the private-sector side, Morgan Stanley and National Equity Fund, Inc., have expanded their Rebuilding Local Economies Fund to help support the rebuilding of housing in communities devastated by Sandy.
The new $75 million commitment will focus exclusively on parts of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and other areas affected by Sandy.