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Reconstruction Program Aims to Soften Fallout of Natural Disasters

A recent report by the New York Daily News examined the success of the city’s Built it Back Program, which restores homes destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. According to the paper, the program has had its highs and lows, with almost three-quarters of construction complete to date but a high drop out rate. 

As of May 30, the city completed 3,771 homes, closing out 73 percent of all builds on its docket. This is a significant uptick from the year before, which saw only 33 percent of homes completed. However, during this year-long period, 466 homeowners dropped out of the program.

The program originally relied on $1.7 billion of federal funds, but recently received a boost of $500 million in HUD funding, putting the total at $2.2 billion.

Part of the funds for the Build it Back Program go to elevate the homes so that they are better protected against future flooding, however the paper noted that this has led to discontent among some homeowners who expected to have their original floor plans followed. Due to the elevation requirement some homeowners have lost basement space, but these home now have greater resale value. Other complaints lobbed toward the program include higher than expected out-of-pocket expenses; slow build times; a confusing paperwork process; and comparisons to other programs that offer new builds.

“These are families that have really emptied out their life savings to make ends meet and they are literally one emergency away from losing everything. So offering them a smaller amount of money when they’re eligible for a complete home build is outrageous and unacceptable,” said Staten Island Borough President James Otto to the paper.

However, program proponents credit Build it Back with being able to move back into their neighborhoods and resume their daily lives.

“I think this was one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever gotten, to be honest,” said homeowner Joy Gill, who received a new, elevated home from the program.

About Author: Rachel Williams

Rachel Williams attended Texas Christian University (TCU), where she graduated with Magna Cum Laude with a dual Bachelor of Arts in English and History. Williams is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, widely recognized as the nation’s most prestigious honor society. Subsequent to graduating from TCU, Williams joined the Five Star Institute as an editorial intern, advancing to staff writer, associate editor and is currently the editor in chief and head of corporate communications. She has over a decade of editorial experience with a primary focus on the U.S. residential mortgage industry and financial markets. Williams resides in Dallas, Texas with her husband. She can be reached at Rachel.Williams@DSNews.com.

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