For homeowners left devastated after Hurricane Sandy, financial relief may be on the way. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is proposing to buy homes from Sandy flood victims in a program that will offer the purchased lands to potential real estate developers while at the same time allowing homeowners to relocated to higher land. Bloomberg’s plan mimics Governor Andrew Cuomo’s $400 million strategy to buy up Sandy homes at pre-Sandy values and convert the land into public spaces, parks and wetlands.
“If there is one element that we have not yet come to full alignment on,” Brad Gair, the director of the city’s housing recovery office, said (as reported by WNYC News) “it’s whether properties acquired should be made permanently open space or whether some of those would be suitable for redevelopment—preferably for the home owners in the area.”
Critics of both plans are concerned that redevelopment of the lands could pose an economic risk to taxpayer money if the lands were ever to be hit by a massive flood again. WNYC reports that associate professor James Fraser of Vanderbilt University believes that the buyout should operate much like the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s program which requires the land to be set aside for open space to protect taxpayers from having to pay twice for the same property. Consequently, Fraser argues that these development plans put the nation at risk as FEMA will have to pay for future flooding.
Bloomberg will need permission from the federal government if the city decides to move forward with his buyout program. Federal guidelines require that the buyout prices be based on pre-storm values and that property owners be given aid for relocation.