New York State has accelerated the pace of buying properties severely damaged in superstorm Sandy and tropical storms Irene and Lee, closing deals on 155 Long Island homes that it valued at $59.5 million, new figures show.
New York Rising, the state agency administering $4.4 billion in federal funds for storm-related recovery, had purchased 97 properties in Suffolk and 58 in Nassau by Wednesday and now is averaging about 30 closings each month across Long Island, officials said.
The state program had made "conditional offers" on a total of 713 homes across both counties, with a cumulative worth the agency put at $300.9 million, from 958 applications, the figures show. The deadline to apply was April 11.
The latest tally represents a dramatic increase in acquisitions and buyouts ahead of the two-year anniversary of Sandy -- the horrific Oct. 29, 2012, storm that flooded homes, ripped up boardwalks and battered shorelines along the Eastern Seaboard from Florida to Maine, causing billions of dollars in damage.
The homes fall into two broad categories: acquisitions, or properties that will be redeveloped to be storm-resistant; and buyouts, homes that will be demolished, with the land repurposed as environmental buffers against future storms, according to NY Rising spokeswoman Barbara Brancaccio.
NY Rising, the agency created to administer billions in Community Development Block Grant funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for storm recovery, has come under sharp criticism from stricken homeowners and some local officials for hefty delays in handling cases and providing money for repair, reconstruction or demolition.
Buyouts and assistance
The agency is responsible for delivering relief through four programs: housing recovery, which consists of buying distressed properties; small-business assistance to help get firms back on their feet; community reconstruction, a program that allows neighborhoods to plan their future; and infrastructure assistance, financial help for much-needed capital projects.
NY Rising, in the first raft of deals on storm-damaged properties, had closed on 34 of these 155 homes on the Island by May. Sixteen of those were acquisitions, and 18 were buyouts. At that time, the agency had made conditional offers on a total of 470 homes.
To be considered for acquisition or buyout, the homes had to be declared "substantially damaged," a key designation meaning the property sustained damage of 50 percent or more of its pre-storm market value.
The state's latest figures provide the first broad look into the scope of Sandy's potential effect on Long Island's landscape. Some highlights:
Acquisitions. The state so far paid nearly $23 million to acquire 58 homes in Nassau and $20.5 million to acquire 51 homes in Suffolk.