By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Six months after Superstorm Sandy hit New York, residents in neighborhoods that took the hardest hit from the hurricane are still struggling to find housing, according to US Rep. Nydia Velazquez, who said she has introduced legislation aimed at helping displaced homeowners.
Velazquez (D-Brooklyn-Manhattan) spoke at a press conference outside of City Hall, where she said her bill, the Safely Sheltering Disaster Victims Act, would address a number of housing challenges brought on by the Oct. 29 hurricane.
"Super-storm Sandy ravaged our city, harming local businesses and working families. Low income New Yorkers were hit particularly hard. Wind and floods caused over $10 billion in damages to homes, businesses, and infrastructure. Hundreds of families were displaced from their homes. With FEMA housing assistance expiring soon, many of these families have no place to go, nor can they afford market-rate rents in their neighborhoods,” said Velazquez, whose congressional district includes a large section of storm-ravaged Red Hook.
“The Safely Sheltering Disaster Victims Act provides rental assistance to struggling households displaced by Sandy so that they can find decent, affordable housing close to the city while their homes are repaired,” the congresswoman said.
The bill would also extend rental assistance to apartment dwellers in public housing in New York City who were forced to flee from Sandy, Velazquez said.
“New York's public housing infrastructure was disproportionately impacted by Sandy, causing hardship for some of our most vulnerable neighbors. The damage was so bad in some units that over 170 households had to be relocated from their homes,” she said.
Another bill, the Public Housing Disaster Preparedness Ac, would provide direct guidance on how to correct problems before a future disaster hits, according to Velazquez.
"The bill clarifies what the expectations for public housing authorities (PHAs) are when assisting residents immediately following a natural disaster. Among other requirements, large PHAs must be prepared to: communicate disaster relief plans with residents; mitigate health and safety-hazards, like mold; restore critical utilities; ensure residents can access food and water; and relocate displaced residents in a timely manner,” she said.
The bill would require the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to review and approve PHA disaster preparedness and relief plans.
“While Sandy was a dark time, we also saw numerous examples of New Yorkers pulling together to assist one another during a difficult period. If we maintain that spirit of togetherness, we can recover from this storm stronger and better prepared for future disasters,” Velazquez said.