LETTER TO THE EDITOR. Re: Struggling to find a fair solution to funding disaster relief for 2nd home owners….Dear Editor:…
Now that the summer is over and post-Sandy business assessment in the newsprint and TV have indicated a sustained broad based economic decline in the shore economy along the entire Jersey Coastline, I would like to make some additional observations. I am a long term resident of Seaside Heights also involved in the local Property Owners’ Association.
If the economic decline is viewed merely an absence of day tripper dollars to the coastline, caused by the weather, too rainy or too hot and concerns over accommodations, I would view those reasons as component elements but a “limited” view of the reality of the fundamental issue driving this situation. I believe that one of the primary lessons Jersey Shore business community and the State of New Jersey Tourism can learn from this post-Sandy summer is the realization that second home owners along the coastline, in addition to primary home owners, represent a far more important element in the economic backbone of the shore economy than has been generally perceived! Second home owners, their family and friends, not only enjoy their homes during longer periods of the year than a generation ago, but they also provide an important source of summer rentals for destination resort visitors.
Governor Christie’s ads were effective to encourage return to the coastline, and Federal funding and economic support for the quick revitalization of shore communities and business infrastructures were for the most part effective, though not complete or an easy process. But, unfortunately, there was a failure by the business community, Federal and State agencies to recognize secondary and primary home owners as the core economic engine that drives the shore business economy, rather than the so-called day tripper economy, as important as they are. While Governor Christie’s ads encouraged people to return to the shore, and monies were made available for businesses to reopen, no funding was made available to help make second home owners whole. In effect, a fundamental core economic engine driving the shore economy was not recognized or rehabilitated!
Too many Jersey Shore communities, in my opinion, are now relying on the mistaken belief that the economy of their town and summer businesses must rely primarily on dollars from day-trippers. Rather, those dollars are the icing on the cake! Certainly many municipalities, if not most, along the coastline derive most of their beach and parking revenue income from short-term visitors. Of that there is no argument. But that is only part of the economy. The beach is the draw for the entire Jersey shore economy. The core economic engines are the dollars from second homeowners and destination vacationers.
It is no secret that the Jersey Shore is badly overdeveloped, particularly on the barrier islands. There is far more housing available than 40 or 50 years ago. It is also true that this over development was, in part, driven over many decades, by the Federal Government’s willingness to provide flood insurance at affordable rates to homeowners which made mortgages easier to obtain, and also the willingness of too many municipalities to welcome initiatives from developers to build in order to increase their property tax base, and, in some instances, easing zoning and other restrictions in the process.
Depending on the degree of damage, the failure post-Sandy to quickly or adequately revitalize primary, and, particularly, second homes along the Jersey Coastline, impacted negatively the core economy of affected areas, particularly on barrier islands. Ever changing and unclear Federal guidelines confused many affected homeowners for many months, regarding rehabilitation, reconstruction, demolition, elevation and storm mitigation…and still do! Insurance companies wishing to minimize liability interpreted insurance policies to their advantage, leaving home owners frustrated, either without any funding or minimal funding to rebuild…and endless disputes. And certainly FEMA did not make life easy as they too were looking to limit liabilities. Many people are also facing sticker shock when it comes to dealing with rebuilding and renovation costs.
I would suspect that second homeowners represent a significant, if not the majority number of owners along the Jersey Coastline, and most probably, the majority of property owners on barrier islands. Funding available for second homeowners, as with the Katrina disaster, is virtually non-existent. But it is the second homeowner along the Jersey Coastline which IS the fundamental economic engine driving the local economy. Eight years after Katrina, New Orleans is still only 80% recovered. It is still not whole! Based on that experience, and the fact that second homeowners were also ignored in the recovery equation, recovery of the business economy along the Jersey coastline will probably be long term and slow since most properties along the coastline are owned by average working and middle class families.
It is obvious that limited financial resources property owners need to finance recovery will diminish discretionary spending in the business communities affected. A new model of discretionary vacation spending will emerge for many years to come, that is, IF the Federal Government continues in its failure to make some reasonable funding available to assist disaster relief restoration for second homeowners.
The situation was made more acute with the recent guidelines this Spring from Governor Christie’s office regarding availability of Federal Funding: “What you need to know about Recovery Assistance for Rental Property Owners and Renters,The Christie Administration Has Allocated $379 Million to Help Provide Affordable Rental Units And Assist With Repairs ” (As a source reference only, a copy of this article is attached.) These guidelines go to the heart of many of my concerns.
According to the Governor’s guidelines, much of the available funding for disaster relief will be going to developers and landlords for low to moderate income housing in flood areas. To the extent that funding under this initiative, and following fair and reasonable guidelines, is available to low and moderate income families is wholly proper, I agree, as long as it does NOT INCLUDE funding to areas designated V, A or Coastal A Zones and as long as it does NOT EXCLUDE from the equation equal assistance to second home owners (i.e.. “Funding… for eligible costs for rehabilitation, reconstruction, demolition (incidental to reconstruction), elevation, and storm mitigation.”)
The issue is very disturbing given the fact that no similar funding assistance is provided for second homeowners in these flood zones. That is inherently discriminatory. Federal and State Disaster relief, is just that, disaster relief. Not disaster relief for some, but not others. Those impacted by Hurricane Sandy should be treated equally and fairly.
The bottom line is that the government is totally ignoring the needs of second home owners, but at the same time it is still providing funding to landlord investors renting to low and moderate income families, at the expense of supporting and helping the legitimate needs of hard working second home owners damaged by Superstorm Sandy…the very group that is the economic engine driving local shore community businesses. That is outrageous!
Second homeowners are being treated in the Sandy disaster recovery effort as second class citizens. One acknowledges the need to help those less fortunate. That is not the issue. But the less fortunate should no longer be housed, anywhere in the U.S., in high risk V, A or Coastal A Zones, nor should we be subsidizing developers who promote such development in these areas. That is not rational, nor good public policy.
Funding currently allocated for rebuilding low and moderate income units in the V, A or Coastal A zones, should be made available instead to second home owners, as a starter.
To put this in some kind of context, I would also like to see a detailed accounting of any and all taxpayer costs to evacuate and relocate individuals on any form of public assistance, in housing and motel units, during and after Superstorm Sandy in V, A and Coastal A Zones along the entire New Jersey Coastline.
It is so difficult to understand how our federal government continues to make available unbelievable amounts of foreign aid, of all kinds, to so many countries, even to adversaries, with far less requirements or accountability, BUT when it comes to helping our own people in crisis, they do so grudgingly, unfairly and unequally!!
All best wishes,
Arthur M. Fierro,
CC COPY OF GOVERNOR CHRISTIE’S GUIDELINES BELOW FOR SOURCE REFERENCE ONLY……
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT RECOVERY ASSISTANCE AVAILABLE FOR RENTAL PROPERTY OWNERS AND RENTERS
The Christie Administration Has Allocated $379 Million to Help Provide Affordable Rental Units And Assist With Repairs
The Christie Administration today launched a $70 million Landlord Rental Repair Program to provide grants to help rental property owners repair, reconstruct or elevate rental units damaged by Superstorm Sandy. The program is part of the ‘re New Jersey Stronger’ Housing Initiative, and will provide up to $50,000 per unit to be made available at affordable rental rates. Eligible owners of rental property in the 9 most-impacted counties from Sandy will be prioritized, but the grants will be available for rental properties damaged by the storm in all 21 counties. It is anticipated the program will benefit approximately 1,500 rental units. Today’s program launch supports the ongoing efforts by the Christie Administration to assist Sandy-impacted homeowners, landlords and renters.
LANDLORD RENTAL REPAIR PROGRAM
who: Landlords and Property Owners with 25 or fewer units.
what: this $70 million program will provide up to $50,000 per unit for eligible rental property owners to repair, reconstruct or elevate property damaged by Superstorm Sandy. Rehabilitated units must be rented year-round to low- and moderate- income households.
why: Program will increase supply of affordable housing and help revitalize damaged neighborhoods.
HOW: Funding can be used for eligible costs for rehabilitation, reconstruction, demolition (incidental to reconstruction), elevation, and storm mitigation.
New Jersey has $379 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Disaster Recovery funds for programs specifically targeted to renters and rental property owners. These programs will replenish the stock of rental housing throughout affected areas, repair affordable rental units left uninhabitable by the storm, and provide affordable housing for special needs populations. Some of these existing programs include:
Programs For Landlords and Rental Property Owners
LANDLORD INCENTIVE PROGRAM
WHO: Landlords and Property Owners.
WHAT: This $40 million program will expand the State’s inventory of affordable housing for low- and moderate-income households impacted by Superstorm Sandy, assisting at least 1,000 families.
WHY: Program will help low- and moderate- income households obtain affordable housing.
HOW: The program will provide rental property owners roughly the difference between 30% of the tenant’s monthly income and federal fair market rents each month over a two-year period and allows rental property owners to provide affordable rental housing.
Programs For Developers
NEIGHBORHOOD ENHANCEMENT PROGRAM
WHO: For-profit and non-profit developers with support of the local government of the project location. The applicant may also be a government agency, redevelopment authority or public housing authority in partnership with a development entity.
WHAT: This $30 million program will provide funding to stabilize neighborhoods impacted by Superstorm Sandy.
WHY: Program is a focused effort to revitalize target neighborhoods through the creation of affordable housing.
HOW: provide zero percent loans to rehabilitate abandoned, foreclosed and vacant housing and to redevelop lots to create affordable housing options in formerly blighted buildings.
PREDEVELOPMENT LOAN FUND FOR AFFORDABLE RENTAL HOUSING
WHO: Non-profit developers in good standing with the State who will create affordable rental properties.
WHAT: This $10 million program will provide financing to help nonprofit developers revitalize Sandy-affected areas by covering the predevelopment costs associated with the redevelopment of properties that are currently considered unsafe, underutilized, or in foreclosure.
WHY: Program will revitalize communities and address developmental needs created or exacerbated by Superstorm Sandy.
HOW: Loan funding may be used for predevelopment costs including, but not limited to: project feasibility, legal fees, soil studies, site preparation, appraisals, and surveys.
SANDY SPECIAL NEEDS HOUSING FUND
WHO: Private for-profit and non-profit housing developers and public housing authorities who will create projects with a combination of rental housing and support services.
WHAT: This $25 million program will fund permanent supportive rental housing or community residences in which some or all of the units are affordable to low- and moderate- income special needs residences.
WHY: Program will provide rental housing and support services to special needs populations affected by Superstorm Sandy.
HOW: Funding can be used for hard and soft costs including: acquisition, rehabilitation, and construction.
FUND FOR RESTORATION OF MULTI-FAMILY RENTAL HOUSING
WHO: Private for-profit and non-profit housing developers and public housing authorities who will create and manage large multi-family developments.
WHAT: This $179,520,000 program provides funding to repair and construct affordable multi-family rental housing units in areas affected by Superstorm Sandy.
Why: Program will help low- and moderate- income households obtain affordable housing.
HOW: Funding can be used for hard and soft costs including: acquisition, rehabilitation, and construction. This program will be available in conjunction with other multi-family programs offered by the State to leverage additional resources.