Eligible homeowners who want to elevate their houses in Suffolk's South Shore floodprone areas may be reimbursed for the cost of relocating during construction by the federal government, under a recently passed Senate bill that still needs final congressional approval.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, in a news conference Wednesday, said there is a clause in the Water Resources and Development Act bill that will pay for the cost of relocation, while a person’s home is being raised. He said the bill had just passed the Senate and he is now working with the House congressional delegation to advance the bill.
“Since we want to encourage people to raise their home, should they want to, we don’t want this to be a barrier in the way, '' Schumer said.
The federal government, under the FIMP program (Fire Island to Montauk), is already funding much of the restoration and protection of 83 miles of Suffolk's coastline. The program includes financing of the elevation of qualified houses in floodprone areas. But the new legislation would reimburse homeowners for their living expenses while relocating during construction — a cost that sometimes discourages many from applying, officials said.
About 4,400 structures or homes are eligible for elevation under FIMP. This includes 1,520 in Babylon, 1,250 in Brookhaven, 940 in Islip and 700 in Southampton.
On Wednesday, in front of Richard and Lorraine Meyer’s Mastic Beach home, Schumer (D-N.Y.), along with local officials, said he is pushing for such federal funding in the final bill when it goes to the House.
“One of the best ways to protect low-lying areas like Mastic is to make sure you can raise your house,” Schumer said.
For the Meyers, who have lived in their Mastic Beach Cape Cod since 1994, flooding remains a concern. Though they took precautions before Superstorm Sandy, they said they still suffered monetary and psychological damage.
“You had the water come to your door and there was nothing you could do about it,” said Richard Meyer. “If it would’ve come up another foot, I would’ve lost my whole basement.”
Lorraine Meyer said relocation reimbursement would help them make “intelligent choices” for the future. “It would make the difference between this being our forever and maybe not our forever home,” she said. “This is where we’d like to stay, but a lot depends on this.”
Shawn Donnelly purchased his Mastic Beach home two years ago, and lives there with his wife, Rebecca. Within the first month of moving there, he said, they were hit by a storm that flooded his block and raised water levels to his deck.
“We were like, 'oh, so this is what it is to live on the bay,'” Donnelly said, speaking after the news conference. “That was the standard winter storm, not a hurricane, not Superstorm Sandy, it was just a regular storm you get."
“Without relocation [reimbursement], it would be cost prohibitive for us [to elevate], where I wouldn't be able to pay my mortgage and our utilities here, and rent another place and pay utilities there,” Donnelly, 41, said. “To pay for both is a lot for most families.”
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone noted that the 10th anniversary of Superstorm Sandy was nearing and said this funding will protect eligible homeowners who want to elevate.
“This is something that directly impacts these homeowners,” Bellone said. “This funding will help make sure that these homeowners are protected and that they can do something that will benefit all of us.”