It's hard to believe that, four years after Hurricane Sandy devastated many areas of New Jersey, thousands of homeowners are still waiting for funds from grant programs to help them.
Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton. Annette Quijano, Ralph Caputo and Adam Taliaferro to ensure the fairness of project deadlines, enhance transparency and create foreclosure protections for Sandy victims was advanced by the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee on February 22, 2016.
Under the bill (A-333), the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) would have to extend the completion deadline for projects funded through Sandy grants for applicants who can demonstrate the delay was the fault of their builder or due to delays by the DCA in approving that builder.
The bill would also offer temporary protections against foreclosure to certain Sandy victims. Homeowners who are not in foreclosure, and who sustained at least $8,000 worth of damage or over one foot of water on the first floor as a result of Sandy, would be authorized to apply to the DCA for a certificate of eligibility for mortgage forbearance. That would establish a time period, ending November 1, 2018, during which the homeowner would not be responsible for principal or interest payments on the mortgage.
As one of the sponsors of the bill said, "It is inexcusable that the same government snags that have kept Sandy victims from rebuilding now threaten their homes. These provisions can help these residents stay afloat while they wait for the powers that be get it right once and for all."
Under the bill, the DCA would have to publicly report the reason for each application denial, wait-list placement and withdrawal from the various programs since the start of the recovery effort — and to report the reasons for new denials, wait-list placements and withdrawals on a quarterly basis through 2018.
And the bill would also require DCA to publicly report where all funding associated with application denials, wait-list applications and withdrawals has instead been allocated.
Based on the many controversies related to the allocation of Sandy funds over the years, this bill seems to be just what the people of New Jersey have been waiting for. We will be watching to see how it progresses through the state's legislature and, if it passes, what the governor's reaction will be.
Beau Weisman, Editor