One City, Rebuilding Together: A Report on the City of New York's Response to Hurricane Sandy and the Path Forward

This report reviews New York City’s housing recovery efforts after Hurricane Sandy through the “Build It Back” program. The report highlights actions already taken by the City to address existing concerns with the program and makes extensive recommendations for other changes, representing a major overhaul of currently active recovery programs. The city’s broader efforts around resiliency management and planning are described, as well as an updated strategy to improve New York’s recovery programs is provided.

Understand how to structure a rebuilding program, supported by federal funding, that can return residents to their homes. 

The report outlines many steps the city will take to advance the rebuilding process to provide financial relief for homeowners while better engaging local communities. This includes expediting the process for families and businesses currently rebuilding and expanding eligibility for immediate relief; using the rebuilding and recovery process to expand economic opportunity and create job opportunities for more New Yorkers; and improving coordination within the city and across levels of government.

This report explains how the Build it Back program was tailored to conform to Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program requirements that at least 50% of federal recovery dollars benefit low-and moderate-income populations. Build it Back covered three core focus areas: single-family homeowners, multi-family dwelling owners and their tenants, and very low-income renter households. 

Each group received different benefits and assistance options based on the degree of damage sustained and annual household income. For home repairs, low- and moderate-income populations were eligible for a greater range of repairs (see table below).

To serve very low-income renters, NYC developed the Temporary Disaster Assistance Program, which provides two-years of rental assistance to those whose income is less than 50% of the Area Median Income (AMI). The report recognizes that there may have been some shortcomings with this program, as it made up only a small share of registrants for the Build it Back program. Even more, 80% of these people could not be reached, did not meet basic program criteria, or declined assistance. In response, the city is expanding eligibility requirements to help those who already found housing but are experiencing rent hardship.  

In addition, an estimated 80,000 public housing residents were affected by Hurricane Sandy. In response, the NY City Housing Authority developed a $1.8 billion post-Sandy action plan to improve resilience which is also covered by CDBG-DR funds.  

In 2016, ALIGN: The Alliance for a Greater New York, published a white paper describing Build it Back's successes and lessons learned, especially in the area of equitable rebuilding. See that report here.


Additionally, the report highlights the ways in which the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency will ensure that rebuilding and hazard mitigation efforts lead to a stronger, more resilient New York. 

Since January 1, 2014 the “Build it Back” program has increased by eight-fold the award offers made to applicants to nearly 4,000, with more than 900 accepting the offerings and moving forward with their awards. Design work has started on more than 190 homes.

Publication Date: April 2014

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