Malloy gives feds Sandy plan for approval

Washington — Gov. Dannel Malloy Friday sent the Department of Housing and Urban Development a plan that could bring $72 million to the state to help it continue to recover from Hurricane Sandy.

HUD had allocated $72 million in Community Development Block grants to help Connecticut rebuild after the October super storm. But before receiving the money, Connecticut is required to submit a plan on how the state would use it.

The Malloy administration submitted its plan just under the wire — the deadline is June 9.

It proposes spending $30 million in grants to those whose Sandy-damaged homes were not covered by insurance or money received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“This action plan reflects the fact that the state’s first priority is to get financial assistance to as many affected residents as possible,” the proposal said.

Second homes would not be eligible for the grants, and applicants could earn no more than 120 percent of an area’s median income. In addition, half the money must be awarded to median- and low-income homeowners, defined as earning no more than 80 percent of an area’s median income.

Connecticut’s Department of Housing would administer the new homeowner grant program.

Another $26 million would be spent on reconstructing public housing and privately owned apartment houses.

Another $4 million would be used to help communities fortify infrastructure, and $4 million would go to economic development measures.

Finally, $2.2 million would be spent to help rebuild and repair public facilities damaged by Sandy.

But the Malloy administration has asked HUD $15 million immediately, a fraction of the $72 million allocated to the state, in the hopes that receiving the money in stages will help them extend a two-year deadline for spending it.

The plan was subject to a seven-day public comment period that elicited dozens of responses and several concerns.

Some questioned the lack of details in the plan, which does not include the size of the homeowner grants or the criteria for eligibility.

“Details on all program parameters are being formulated and will be made available to the public prior to implementation,” was the action plan’s response.

Others asked why grants could not be used to elevate homes, if additional repairs were not needed.

Tom Ivers, Milford’s block grant coordinator, questioned why the money was not allocated to Sandy-hit communities, instead of the state. He and others were critical that 69 percent of housing needs were assessed in Fairfield County and only 11 percent in New Haven County.

Another criticism came from a Milford resident who owns a rental home that was damaged in the storm. She said it is unfair that apartment owners are eligible for CDBG grants while owners of single-family rental properties are not.

One homeowner said there is no provision to buy out flooded-out homeowners, something New York and New Jersey are doing with their HUD money. New York and New Jersey will each receive nearly $2 billion in CDBG money for action plans HUD has already approved.

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch said there is not enough money in the plan to repair damaged multifamily housing.

Finch and other local authorities are also concerned there isn’t enough money allocated to build seawalls and other mitigation projects.

The response was that those project may be funded when HUD dispenses additional CDBG money, part of $16 billion appropriated in a Sandy response bill by Congress.

Under HUD regulations, the Malloy administration was required to address the public comments and modify the action plan based on those comments.

“The most significant of the changes proposed through the public comment period … is that we make clear that dwellings with one to four rental units will be eligible for financial assistance,” said Jim Watson, spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development.

In an earlier draft of the plan, there was a five-unit minimum for properties to be eligible for multifamily rehabilitation grants.

HUD now has up to 45 days to approve or reject Malloy’s plan.