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Studies Show Low-Income And Minority Households Hit Hard By Hurricane Sandy; Face Toughest Challenges To Recover
3/8/2013 12:57:12 PM

NEW YORK, NY -- An analysis of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) data show that low-income households, including disproportionately large numbers of families of color, were hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy and continue to face the toughest challenges in recovering from the massive storm, according to studies by Enterprise Community Partners and NYU Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. 

As of last month, more than 500,000 households have registered for FEMA assistance with 224,514 registrants, or 43 percent, having household incomes of less than $30,000 a year.  Among renters registered for FEMA assistance, 68 percent were low-income and 55 percent reported that damage to their dwellings was "major" or "substantial."  In New York City, 52 percent of renters affected are people of color and in New Jersey – 56 percent. 

Today, three civil rights groups, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC), responded to the studies with concerns that federal aid is falling short for people of color and low-income families trying to recover from the storm because many FEMA programs are designed for families living in single family homes not multi-unit housing that make up most of the housing stock damaged in the New York City area and parts of New Jersey.

"These data show that Hurricane Sandy was devastating to many low-income families and that many of them are likely to be still struggling to recover," said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of LDF. "Given that low-income families in the NY-NJ region, who are more likely to be people of color, were already facing severe affordable housing shortages, FEMA and other federal aid for Sandy recovery must prioritize aid to these families and help them find housing that they can afford."

Shanna L. Smith, President and CEO of NFHA agreed, noting that Congress has appropriated some $16 billion in disaster Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to aid in the recovery from Sandy.  "Jurisdictions receiving these funds must make sure that their rebuilding plans address the needs of families with children, people with disabilities, and people of color and strike a fair balance between the needs of renters and homeowners.  In addition, HUD, as the administrator of the CDBG program, must ensure that jurisdictions receiving theses funds support recovery for all community residents."

Philip Tegeler, Executive Director of PRRAC, noted that residential segregation across the country has grouped low-income families into communities with the most vulnerable housing stock, and highest level of environmental hazards. "When a natural disaster strikes these communities, the results are often even more devastating for the residents who have fewer resources and fewer housing options," he said, "this comes as a direct result of past housing policy."

Data from the studies also showed:

  • In New York City, among FEMA registrants, owners are 62% white, 20% African-American, 7% Asian-American, 8% Hispanic; most renters are racial and ethnic minorities:  25% African-American, 19% Hispanic, 8% Asian-American.
  • Flooding from Sandy seriously damaged public housing in New York City:  402 buildings with over 35,000 units owned by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) were damaged— more public housing units than the entire stock of any other public housing authority in the country.
  • There were many affected homeowners who were already facing the threat of foreclosure, and who may now face an even tougher struggle to retain their homes.  In the two years prior to the storm, 1,800 owners of one- to four-family homes in the surge area had foreclosure proceedings started against them. Since the storm, the Fed­eral Housing Administration (FHA) and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the GSEs) placed moratoria on foreclosure filings and foreclosure sales on damaged homes until April 30, 2013.  These agencies must also ensure that servicers comply with the moratoria, and work with borrowers to create affordable and sustainable loan terms once the moratoria end.
  • In New York City, of the 302,000 housing units in the Sandy storm surge area, 7 out of 10 units were in apartment buildings with more than 4 units. 
  • With a concentration of older hous­ing stock and subsidized housing in New York, some neighborhoods hit hardest have high percentages of senior citizens.  About 27 percent of the households in the surge area included seniors. Further, seniors living alone— an especially vulnerable population during an emergency—make up 12.1 percent of all households in the surge area.
  • In New Jersey, of all FEMA registrants, most renters are racial and ethnic minorities (25% Hispanic, 23% African-American, 8% Asian-American).

Source via PR Newswire

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