Northern New York Newspapers
NNY Business
NNY Living
Sun., Oct. 4
Serving the communities of Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties, New York
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Worth pursuing


Gov. Andrew M.Cuomo has come up with a reasonable plan to help homeowners flooded out by Superstorm Sandy and limit the payout of public funds to recover from future disasters.

He wants to spend $400 million to buy homes wrecked by Sandy and allow property owners to relocate out of flood-prone areas.

The state-acquired property would be permanently preserved as undeveloped coastline. It could be turned over to municipalities for use as parkland or turned into natural buffers such as dunes or wetlands to mitigate damage from future storms.

Using money from the $51 billion federal disaster relief package for Sandy, properties would be purchased at their pre-storm fair market value. A 5 percent bonus would encourage owners to relocate within their county to reduce potential impacts on municipalities from population losses or on their property tax base with undeveloped land. An additional incentive would be available if every homeowner on a block agreed to sell.

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which the governor once headed, has to approve the buyout plan, but there is precedent. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which administers the flood disaster insurance program, has been buying property for two decades, including some in upstate New York after Tropical Storms Irene and Lee. The taxpayer subsidized flood program, though, is heavily in debt and needed an infusion of funds to finance Sandy bailouts.

As many as 10,000 homes in the federally designated flood plain damaged by Sandy would qualify for the buyouts, according to Bloomberg News.

State officials estimate that between 1,000 and 1,500 homeowners could take advantage of the governor’s offer. It will appeal to some residents whose homes have been repeatedly flooded but rebuilt because they could not afford to sell their storm-damaged homes at depressed values. Some homeowners did not even have flood insurance.

The plan, though, is being well received in some neighborhoods such Staten Island’s Oakwood Beach, where more than 150 homeowners have indicated they are ready to sell and move on. “These people have been so beat up,” said Joseph Tirone Jr., who heads the Oakwood Beach Buyout Committee. “It’s just gotten to be too much.”

Those sentiments aren’t shared by all. Many have already started to rebuild. The emotional ties to a community and a home that has been in the family for generations, with memories of children and grandchildren raised there, might be too strong for some homeowners.

“These are residents that choose to live by the water,” state Sen. Joseph P. Addaboo Jr., who represents Howard Beach, told the New York Times. “They’re not going anywhere.”

However, decisions could be influenced by how long it takes to implement the plan and then complete the transaction. Displaced homeowners are not likely to wait indefinitely before deciding whether to move or rebuild, and relocating could cost more than they receive for their home.

With limited participation, Gov. Cuomo’s proposal will not drastically alter communities or reshape coastlines with patches of open space here and there, but he offers a way out for disheartened homeowners looking for a fresh start.

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