NEW YORK – The Federal Emergency Management Agency and our federal partners are working closely with the state to address the housing needs of New Yorkers displaced by Hurricane Sandy. Our priority is to help survivors move out of hotel rooms and into apartments or their safe, repaired homes.
FEMA has identified rentals in the area damaged by Hurricane Sandy and is working to match survivors to that available housing. A goal is to place survivors in rentals within their neighborhoods, or as close as possible to those areas. This not only is better for survivors, it helps neighborhood businesses.
Our goal is to maximize the number of people who are able to move back into their own homes; and for them to get home as quickly as possible.
There are several programs in place to help ease this housing crunch in a place where there is always a housing crunch.
The STEP Program
FEMA has authorized an emergency program designed to make damaged homes safe so survivors can return during the recovery process. The program, Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power (STEP), pays for those temporary and necessary repairs that help restore power, heat and hot water to primary residences prior to permanent repairs. This program is implemented by NYC, Nassau and Suffolk counties.
First, if it’s safe to inspect the home, damages will be assessed. If it’s practical, electricity will be restored along with other basic repairs.
Some homes may be eligible for other temporary repairs. Temporary repairs could include securing broken windows, covering damaged exterior walls and roofs, and patching and securing damaged exterior doors.
An inspector will decide what elements of the STEP Program are available for each residence.
Certain defined components of STEP are included in New York City’s Rapid Repair Program.
- Residents in NYC can call 3-1-1 or go a New York City Restoration Center.
- Nassau County residents: 888-684-4267.
- Suffolk County residents: 2-1-1.
Transitional Sheltering Assistance
To get people out of shelters, FEMA activated the Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program to move eligible survivors into hotels or motels if they can’t return to their damaged homes. TSA lodging expenses are paid directly to the hotel by FEMA.
The program has been extended four weeks. The new extension will allow applicants to remain in participating hotels during the holiday season. FEMA will call applicants eligible for the extension to notify them of the extended four-week period and the checkout date of Jan. 12, 2013.
TSA-eligible survivors can receive help finding a hotel by calling: 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800-462-7585. The toll-free telephone numbers operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week until further notice. Those who use 711-Relay or Video Relay Services (VRS) can call 800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers operate 24 hours a day seven days a week until further notice.
Help finding TSA participating hotels also is available online: www.femaevachotels.com.
Renters with a need for housing because of storm damage to their dwelling may be eligible for a FEMA temporary rental grant. This assistance may be provided while renters are working to accomplish a permanent housing plan.
Returning to a permanent home is a significant milestone on the road to recovery. FEMA rental assistance may last for up to 18 months from the date of declaration. So it’s important for survivors to have a permanent housing plan.
FEMA has a Housing Portal at http://asd.fema.gov/inter/hportal/home.htm to help families find rental units. In addition to apartments or homes normally available, the portal identifies units provided by our federal partners.
To be eligible for possible rental assistance, survivors must first register with FEMA. There are many ways to register.
Individuals can register online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or via smartphone or tablet by using the FEMA app or going to m.fema.gov. People may also call 800-621-3362 or (TTY) 800-462-7585. Those who use 711-Relay or Video Relay Services (VRS) can call 800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers operate 24 hours a day seven days a week until further notice.
The deadline to register with FEMA is Jan. 28, 2013.
U.S. Department of Housing Urban Development
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, led by Secretary Shaun Donovan, is also playing an active role in providing temporary housing to storm-displaced families. HUD has identified thousands of available units in HUD-assisted housing and is getting that information to displaced individuals, primarily at Disaster Recovery Centers.
The Department has also increased fair market rental allowances to make it easier for displaced Section 8 voucher recipients to find replacement housing, and is allowing owners of HUD-funded senior developments the flexibility to open up vacant units to storm evacuees.
Secretary Donovan was also instrumental in bringing together New York City and State government officials and real estate trade groups in the aftermath of the storm to find housing for New York displaced families. This has led to a government and private sector partnership that gives displaced families greater options in finding vacant apartments that are affordable and safe.