Homes, Infrastructure Focus of Next Sandy New Jersey Aid

POINT PLEASANT, N.J. (AP) -

Restoring housing and shoring up critical infrastructure will be the focus of how New Jersey spends its next round of Superstorm Sandy relief money, Gov. Chris Christie’s administration said Monday.

How the state plans to spend $1.46 billion in federal storm recovery aid will be the subject of three public hearings next week.

It wants to use roughly half the money for housing programs, including grants for homeowners to rebuild and developers to put up new apartment buildings. The state received $1.83 billion in storm aid last year.

“We’ve made a lot of progress in the 15 months since Sandy,” Christie said. “My mission remains to ensure that everyone who was impacted by Sandy gets their lives back to normal, and I won’t rest until that mission is complete.”

The next round of money comes as New Jersey works to improve the delivery of aid to those who need it most. Last month, the state severed ties with the company overseeing aid distribution in two large Sandy aid programs, and residents and businesses continue to complain of long delays, endless paperwork and unresponsive bureaucracy in trying to rebuild after the storm.

The administration is also dealing with a claim from Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer that Christie’s lieutenant governor said Sandy aid would flow to the city if it approved a development project the governor supports. In a conference call with reporters Monday, Christie’s storm recovery chief, Marc Ferzan, said, “Politics has absolutely no role in disaster recovery.”

About a third of the next round of money would go toward fixing vulnerabilities that Sandy exposed in the state’s transportation, energy and water infrastructure systems. Of the $735 million to be spent on housing assistance programs, $450 million would go to low or moderate-income families.

The plan calls for adding $390 million for the state’s largest Sandy housing recovery initiative. This is in addition to the $710 million received last year. It would add $200 million to the $179 million allocated last year for a fund to help develop affordable multi-family rental housing.

It also would allocate $100 million for the New Jersey Blue Acres Buyout Program to purchase flood-prone homes; more than 270 buyout offers have been made to Sandy-impacted homeowners thus far.