Congressman Nadler Praises Passage of the Disaster Assistance Support for Communities and Homeowners Act in House of Representatives

Jun 26, 2017 Issues: Housing, New York and Our Neighborhoods

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) passed legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to address a serious gap in eligibility for FEMA disaster assistance, H.R. 1684, the Disaster Assistance Support for Communities and Homeowners Act of 2017. In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, thousands of New Yorkers realized they may never be able to return their home to livable conditions simply because of the type of home they own. Under current law, homeowners in condos and co-ops are not eligible for FEMA individual assistance to repair common areas in their buildings like hallways and boiler rooms. Similarly, Common Interest Communities that manage their own roads and wastewater systems are not eligible for FEMA public assistance for activities like debris removal after storms.

Congressman Nadler’s bipartisan bill directed FEMA to address this issue in two ways. First, FEMA must provide technical assistance to Common Interest Communities to help them identify ways to become eligible for public assistance through agreements with their local municipalities. Second, the bill directs FEMA to provide Congress with concrete legislative proposals to make condos and co-ops eligible for individual assistance for common areas.

The legislation unanimously passed the House of Representatives. Congressman Nadler’s full statement, as prepared, can be found below:

“In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, thousands of New Yorkers and other Americans learned they were ineligible for FEMA assistance because of the type of home in which they live. Families who lived in condos were eligible for assistance for their individual units, but could not get any assistance to repair ground floor entryways, boilers, or other common areas. Those who live in co-operative housing (or “co-ops”), were ineligible for any disaster assistance to repair the walls or floors of their units let alone their common areas. This was not a small problem for my constituents; in the storm surge area in New York, nearly 20 percent of housing units are in co-op buildings and an additional eight percent are condominiums.  

“Seniors in high-rise condo buildings could get assistance to repair their floors and repaint their walls but nothing to fix the elevators they needed to reach their units. Families in co-ops could replace their furnishings and make some repairs, but the halls of the buildings remained covered with mold and uninhabitable. Almost every district in the country has condos, and homeowners in those condo communities will continue to face the same terrible realization in the wake of new disasters.

“Community associations, or Common Interest Communities, around the country have experienced similar roadblocks when they seek FEMA disaster assistance. Many of these associations own and operate their own roads, canals, bridges, and water systems. In the aftermath of a disaster, however, they are not eligible for FEMA public assistance for basic, essential government services such as removing trees and debris from communal roads. Residents cannot get out of their neighborhoods and emergency vehicles cannot get in.

“This bill would address these eligibility problems in two ways. First, it would direct FEMA to provide Common Interest Communities technical assistance to identify options for public assistance eligibility. Many of these communities are unaware they could already be eligible for assistance if, prior to a disaster, they enter into agreements with their local government on issues like debris removal.

“Second, my colleagues and I have communicated several times with FEMA about the issue of condo and co-op eligibility for disaster assistance. FEMA has studied this issue for several years, and this bill directs FEMA to take the next step in this process by providing the House and Senate Committees legislative proposals to address those issues and to make condos and co-ops eligible for disaster assistance.

“Thank you Chairman Shuster and Ranking Member DeFazio for bringing this bipartisan legislation to the floor today. And thank you, Mr. Sanford and Mr. Engel, for cosponsoring it. I urge my colleagues to support this bill, and I yield back my time.”

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