Albany funding affordable housing in storm areas

With Hurricane Joaquin positioning itself for a potential East Cost strike, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday announced a new $20 million program to support eligible affordable-housing projects in areas ravaged by previous tropical events, including 2012’s devastating Hurricane Sandy.

Citing damage caused not only by the historic superstorm but by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee – which struck just weeks apart in 2011 – the governor invited qualified housing developers in 33 New York counties, including Nassau and Suffolk, to submit affordable-housing construction proposals for possible state funding.

The money will come from the Governor’s storm recovery office, which is fueled by a $4.4 billion allotment from HUD. The disbursement of the federal funds will actually be administered by the Community Preservation Corp., a circa-1974, nationally recognized nonprofit neighborhood revitalization program that provides affordable-housing capital to underserved New York regions.

Calling extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy “the new normal,” Cuomo said the funding will “help ensure that affordable housing in these areas is safer and more resilient against whatever Mother Nature throws our way.”

“These communities have witnessed firsthand the damage caused by extreme weather,” the governor said in a statement. “We must ensure we build back stronger.”

The Community Preservation Corp. will oversee the development of between 150 and 200 rental units throughout the 33 counties, with at least 51 percent of new units at each selected property to be designated for local residents earning below 80 percent of the area’s median income. The program will target small properties – eight to 20 units each – in low-density areas “that may not be normally reached by housing programs,” according to the governor’s office.

Eligible projects include the adaptive reuse or substantial rehabilitation of vacant buildings, as well as new-construction efforts.

There’s no estimate on how much of the $20 million will be earmarked for Long Island-based affordable-housing projects. Community Preservation Corp. President and CEO Rafael Cestero said the application guidelines are “closely in line” with the corporation’s “steadfast commitment to stabilizing New York State by bringing much-needed capital to communities destroyed by natural disasters,” and added the corporation will “leverage the expertise of our local field offices to identify areas with the greatest need.”

There’s no doubting the need on Long Island, according to U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Patchogue), not only in his First Congressional District but across Nassau and Suffolk.

“Long Island is still recovering from the storms that devastated our communities over the past few years,” the congressman said. “This funding will increase access to affordable housing on Long Island, as well as improve the overall quality of life for many residents.”

Hurricane Sandy, the second-costliest hurricane in U.S. history, made landfall near Brigantine, N.J. in October 2012, causing an estimated $71 billion in damage and killing more than 150 people in the United States. All told, the storm is blamed for at least 233 deaths and more than $75 billion in damages across eight countries.

Hurricane Irene, which made multiple landfalls in August 2011 and is the United States’ seventh-costliest hurricane on record, caused $15.6 billion in total damages and claimed 47 lives in the United States. Irene’s storm surge caused heavy flooding across Long Island, contributing to the estimated $296 million in damages the storm caused in New York.

Just two weeks later, remnants of Tropical Storm Lee – which made landfall in Louisiana – soaked several waterlogged communities in upstate New York, leading to historic flooding that contributed to the storm’s estimated damages total of $1.6 billion.

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