Dream Homes Rebuilding Blog – 2-11-14
Comments & Observations from the DCA Public Hearing about Allocating Funds under the new $1.463 Billion HUD Grant
Building Notes & Weather Delays & Seminar Schedule for February
Hello Sandsters –
I hope all is going well with you and you are enjoying the winter. Personally I hate it and feel if we never saw another snowflake in NJ, that would be a wonderful thing. Only 36 days until Spring!! Yay!
Before we get started, a sincere congratulations to a dear friend and colleague, Kathy Dotoli, who just opened her own law practice in Toms River. Kathy is one of the top worker’s compensation and social security disability attorneys in NJ and can be contacted at 732 221 5640 if you are in need of those or other legal services. We wish her the absolute best of luck in her new venture! Great job Kathy! We’ll see you at the seminar on 2/27/14 in Toms River.
Upcoming Seminar: Join us for our (nearly famous?) Rebuilding / RREM Seminar on February 27th, from 6-8 pm at the Toms River branch of the Ocean County Library at 101 Washington Street. We will be in the Green Room, which is a great space, but seating is limited to 30 people. Please respond if you would like to come. We will be hosting Baumgardner House Lifting as one of our speakers, along with Scott Lepley, architect Kathleen Dotoli, Esq. and Evan Hill from Doonesbury Engineering. It should be a great session and refreshments will be served. Call me at 732 300 5619 or email to reserve your space. As always, there will be time for questions and case review afterwards.
Ok, let’s get into the muck a little, Sandsters…J Unless you’ve been on vacation in the Out Islands of the Bahamas (don’t tell me because I will definitely throw a snowball at you), you’ve seen much news lately about RREM, HUD, lawsuits, studies, complaints, lack of transparency and slow progress. It’s become a flood and much of it is being exacerbated by the tribulations our fair governor is currently enduring…we have BridgeGate, the bullying of mayors in Hoboken, Bayonne and Jersey City, the questions about the recently fired HGI (who was supposedly administering the RREM program for the DCA, but no one is actually clear what they were doing) and finally delays with the implementation of RREM.
Which leads me to the DCA Hearing tonight, which I attended tonight at Stockton and where I claimed my 3 minutes in front of the microphone.
As you may have heard, the DCA is holding 3 hearings regarding the allocation of the newest $1.463 billion HUD/CBD grant, and one of them was held tonight at the Stockton College Performing Arts Center in Galloway. The other two are in Newark tomorrow night and at Brookdale College on Thursday. (I have included the email I received from DCA at the bottom of this blog post if you want to attend tomorrow or Thursday, or you can submit comments by email to firstname.lastname@example.org )
You can probably imagine that there were many angry, disgruntled people in attendance, and some people (not too many – actually very few) were actually literate and had good input. (My comments are included here for your reference). Sandsters, you’ve all seen these subjects before in this blog but I thought they were important enough to testify about.
“My name is Vince Simonelli and I’m the president of Dream Homes Ltd., a new home builder and general contractor in NJ. I’m a lifelong resident with an active, vested interest in efficiently rebuilding both homes affected by Sandy and the NJ economy. I’ve constructed and sold over 1500 homes and developed over 3000 building lots over the last 20 years.
Since Sandy, I’ve been moving, raising and rehabbing homes both privately and in partnership with approved REM contractors. I’m very familiar with the REM and HMGP programs. I also write a blog called Rebuilding after Sandy where I share information about the complexities of rebuilding.
I have four points regarding the REM program and allocation of the additional HUD grant.
1. First, fund allocation should be more heavily weighted to the REM/HMGP programs, since reestablishing permanent residency is a crucial component in any economic redevelopment effort. While other allocations under the HUD grant are valid, it’s most important to return people to their homes. Currently $386 million of the $1.463 billion in the newest grant is for homeowners, which is 38% of the total. At a minimum, the allocation of REM/HMGP funds should be 60% of the total, or $888 million.
2. Second, the REM program would be improved with the adoption of an accurate, reasonable pricing structure. The prices dictated to the DCA from HUD are between 40% – 90% lower than pricing currently approved and being paid in other states in identical programs. DCA is being hamstrung from HUD and HUD pricing is simply wrong. Insurance, taxes, labor and material costs are greater in NJ than in other states and the approved pricing should reflect that fact.
3. Third, all REM program managers should use the same criteria for estimating and pricing rehab work. This will reduce the hidden costs currently plaguing the program. All program managers should be on the same page. Confusion and inefficiency is costing the NJ taxpayer millions of dollars and much lost time.
4. Finally, Path B & Path C homeowners should not be treated differently. With Path B in REM, where homeowners choose their own contractors, design costs should be paid by REM and not deducted from homeowners’ grants. These design costs are paid under Path C and should be afforded to Path B participants as well.
Thank you for your time.”
(Believe it or not, it took me longer to cut that to 3 minutes than it does to write a 3 page blog… being brief and succinct (at least in the written word) is difficult for me. )
I did get applause twice, which was nice…and I didn’t get The Hook like some other people who went over their 3 minutes…J
Anyway, I felt pained for the panel sitting up there doing their best to dodge the eggs and rotten tomatoes being hurled at them. It was not right, to say the least. To abuse the 9 professionals on the panel and blame them for every issue in the entire DCA and RREM program because of inevitable mistakes & delays in a program of this size is like saying you aren’t eating Chinese food anymore because you had one bad egg roll. They’re trying, and no one’s perfect.
Sandsters, I have a ton of compassion for folks going through the rebuilding process, both privately and in the program. I regularly meet with people, some of whom are so relieved to actually be speaking with a builder that they start crying in relief when they’re telling me their story (really). I’ve seen much pain, suffering & inconvenience throughout the shore and none of that is trivial. The human cost to all of us cannot be discounted or minimized.
However, some perspective is in order.
RREM (and the other 49 programs under DCA) are government programs, they’re quite large (with the new HUD grant, it’s almost 20 times larger than Floyd and Irene combined), and they’re not actually going badly considering the birth pains they are still suffering. That statement is fact based on real data, not opinion.
Do any of us really expect that in a program approaching $3.3 billion in total there wouldn’t be some mistakes, modification and corrections in the beginning? Does anyone think everyone involved will be completely well versed, have all the answers, be blindingly efficient and able to fix everything for every person immediately?
Not even a little bit. Let’s be practical and realistic. However, most people involved are really trying to move the rock up the road.
Is RREM inefficient at times? Of course, but it’s the hand we’ve been dealt and it’s not the worst hand. When it becomes too much to handle, keep in mind that there are literally hundreds (thousands?) of sincere, well meaning people involved from the DCA, RREM and countless other state agencies that are doing their best to administer and manage an unwieldy adolescent beast. It will get better and it has been steadily improving. Because you may have personally had a negative experience, that does not mean the entire effort is worthless or tarnished. If you eat one rotten apple, do you stop eating fruit for the rest of your life?
Unfortunately, if you’re reading this you’re in the first wave and like the saying goes, the pioneers are the ones with arrows sticking out of their ass…
Can the DCA & RREM improve in general on the issues of transparency and communication? Absolutely. Does anyone reading this know of any organization, public or private, that couldn’t improve in those categories? Not likely, but if you do, let me know.
Much of the angst and aggravation coming from the public is caused by misinformation and lack of understanding. Keep in mind that studiously ignoring facts in favor of rhetoric and hearsay, does not make one right or intelligent. It simply makes one belligerent and closed to reality.
Hang in there Sandsters. It’s happening, though not as quickly as anyone would want.
I’ve written too much tonight already. In the next blog, we’ll talk about appealing your grant decision, ideas for different foundation systems, timing for your project and some interesting facts about the number of people affected by Sandy that you may not know.
Reminder that if you’ve sent me email or left a voice mail and have not received a response within a day or so, please contact me again. Lately I’ve been swamped and have missed messages here and there.
A Note to our Readers: Though I began and continue writing this blog primarily to try and help as many Sandsters as possible, we are design builders and general contractors and are actively doing renovation and reconstruction projects up and down the state. People ask me so often if we actually do this work (which I always thought was pretty clear), that I am mentioning it in the blog. We work with private clients, as well as Path B and C in the RREM program. Feel free to call, text or email to set up an appointment for an estimate on your rebuilding project.
Hope this helps. As always, call or write with any questions.
Stay well Sandsters.
Dream Homes Ltd.
Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC
Licensed NJ New Home Builder License# 045894
Licensed NJ Home Improvement Contractor License# 13VH07489000
PO Box 627 Forked River, NJ 08731
Office: 609 693 8881 F: 609 693 3802
Cell: 732 300 5619
New Jersey Department of Community Affairs
Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR)
Action Plan Substantial Amendments #6 and #7
Pursuant to Federal Register Notice FR-5696-N-06
Please take notice that the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs will hold three public hearings to solicit public comments on the State’s plan for the allocation and expenditure of $1,463,000,000 in CDBG-DR funds, which the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development allocated to New Jersey pursuant to the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2013 (Public Law 113-2). The State will also accept public comment on a proposal to provide rental assistance in the form of tenant-based vouchers for Sandy-impacted households. State cabinet officials and staff will provide an overview of proposed allocations and priorities. Public comments will begin immediately after the presentation. To ensure maximum convenience for residents, hearings will be held in New Jersey’s northern, central and southern regions pursuant to the following schedule:
Tuesday, February 11, 2014 (4:00pm – 7:00pm)
Richard Stockton College of New Jersey – Performing Arts Center (PAC)
101 Vera King Farris Drive
Galloway, NJ 08205
Wednesday, February 12, 2014 (5:30pm – 8:30 pm)
New Jersey Institute of Technology
141 Summit Street
Newark, NJ 07103
Thursday, February 13, 2014 (4:00pm – 7:00 pm)
Brookdale Community College
Robert J. Collins Arena and Recreation & Events Center
765 Newman Springs Road
Middletown, NJ 07738
Those interested in speaking at the public hearings will be given up to three minutes. To sign up to speak, please register online https://bitly.com/SandyPublicHearings. All hearing dates, times and locations are subject to change due to inclement weather conditions. Information regarding any change in the hearing schedule will be posted at the above mentioned website at least two hours before the scheduled start time of the hearing. Those who need accessibility accommodations are advised to contact the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs at email@example.com , or call 609-292-3750 to ensure full availability of services.
Residents may also submit their comments in writing at the public hearing, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to the attention of Gabrielle Gallagher, NJ Department of Community Affairs, 101 South Broad Street, P.O. Box 800, Trenton, NJ 08625-0811. For more information about New Jersey’s Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts or to download a copy of the State’s Action Plan and related amendments, visit http://www.nj.gov/dca/divisions/sandyrecovery/action/ or request a copy at the above mentioned address.