Hurricane Sandy victims and elected officials have made a push for the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery to request the Department of Housing and Urban Development to renew the extension of the Interim Mortgage Assistance Program.
The program was put in place to assist residents displaced from their homes after Sandy in paying their mortgage as long as their homes were uninhabitable and they had to pay rent for temporary dwellings.
Because of delays with New York Rising, the IMA program, scheduled for 20 months with a cap of $3,000 per month or $60,000 total, was extended to 36 months in February 2016. It had previously been extended from three months to 20 in 2013. The 16-month extension, however, was waived as of Jan. 1.
In response to the extension no longer being available, State Sen. Todd Kaminsky and Congress representative Kathleen Rice wrote a letter to GOSR, urging it to reconsider. “This sudden change has caused undue financial hardship for our constituents who based their construction timeline on the 36-month IMA aid they were originally granted,” the letter reads. “ … More than five years after Sandy, families throughout our districts are working hard to return to their homes.”
One such resident who is worried she will lose her home is Phyllis Boland. Her house, on Adams Street in East Rockaway, has been uninhabitable since Sandy, and she has moved four times. She was approved for the IMA program last August, but with the extension coming to an end, she said, she is worried her home will be foreclosed.
“I simply cannot pay my rent and mortgage simultaneously,” Boland told the Herald last month. “It’s impossible for me, and I don’t know what I am going to do.”
The extension was originally granted to give homeowners more time to obtain permits, hire contractors and rebuild their houses. Many of the homeowners’ construction schedules and payment plans were built on a 36-month timeline.
According to the Office of the Federal Registers’ website, the 16-month extensions were only to be granted to homeowners that showed substantial construction progress over the original 20-month period. If the inspection showed that progress was not made, the recipient of the assistance was then asked to participate in the New York Rising Housing Recovery Program, in which the state would manage the rehabilitation of the recipient’s home
Boland said there has not been any progress made in the construction on her home.
She said there were significant delays in getting her IMA approval, and that even though she applied for it in early 2016, she was not approved until August 2017. At that point, she was told based on the IMA department’s calculations that she was only eligible for 14 months of mortgage reimbursement. She was also not accepted into New York Rising’s rebuilding program until she was approved for the IMA program, and her construction plans have not been signed off on by East Rockaway village officials.
Representatives of GOSR said that the IMA program is still available for those who need it for up to 20 months, and residents can still sign up for it through June. Those already enrolled will continue to receive assistance for up to 20 months, but the extension to 36 months has ended. In a letter to applicants last September, the New York Rising customer representative team addressed the expiraton.
“As of Jan. 1, 2018, pursuant to HUD guidelines, NY Rising’s IMA assistance will revert to a maximum of 20 months and/or $60,000,” the letter read. “This letter is to notify you of this change, which the state is obligated to observe in accordance with federal guidelines.”
GOSR representatives said that IMA was the longest-term disaster assistance program in the country, which enabled homeowners to qualify for $108,000 in assistance that did not have to be reimbursed. The program has disbursed a total of nearly $47 million to 1,767 applicants.
To reach a customer service representative to ask about the IMA program, call (516) 341-0201.
Editor's Note: The original version of this story stated that Phyllis Boland's construction plans were approved by East Rockaway village officials in February. They were have not yet been approved. We regret the error.