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FEMA meeting gets heated
Residents press agency for answers
By Alexandra Spychalsky
Courtesy FEMA

“Our dock came crashing through our living room wall,” said a woman from the Canals who came to the city’s public housing forum on Feb. 13. “The bricks tumbled all over the place. There’s a 12-foot hole in the side of the house. That somehow did not end up on the report from the insurance company.”

In the months since Hurricane Sandy ripped through Long Beach, residents have been struggling to repair their homes and restart their lives. Many have complained about wildly incorrect insurance assessments, weeks of unreturned phone calls from insurance companies and conflicting information from different agencies.

The city and the Federal Emergency Management Agency hosted the forum at City Hall to give residents a chance to direct their questions about housing and storm recovery to representatives of the agencies they have been struggling with — FEMA, the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“The city wants to get you answers,” said Long Beach Building Commissioner Scott Kemins. “The only way to get answers is to get everyone in the same room at the same time.”

But many attendees complained afterward that the forum was useless, that the representatives didn’t have the information they needed and that they left with more questions than they came with.

When a woman asked if there was any way FEMA could extend its rental assistance program past the 18-month limit, she was told that the decision wasn’t FEMA’s to make, and that Congress would have to pass legislation to change the rule.

When a man asked why, when it comes to recoverable depreciation, his house is assessed differently by FEMA and NFIP because it is a two-family dwelling, he was told by a panel member, “Well that’s the rule.”

“You have to give me a little bit better answer than that,” the man said. “Why am I considered a second-class citizen? This is why we’re all here, to get some answers.”


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A lot of this is not even a Sandy or FEMA issue. Home ownership is expensive. Stuff Happens. Expensive Stuff Happens. My neighbors who had access to emergency cash who had 100K in damage, started projects immediately, fronted money and piece by piece submitted to insurance company for payment. Got paid and are just about done. They also did not pay inflated prices for work as they did not have the contractors in any way shape and form involved in the insurance claims.

However, the two neighbors who did this actually, owned their homes with no mortgage. Involving bank slowed whole process, Trying to get paid first before work slows process, Trying to get contractors involved in all this slows process. Finally, banks want proof of licensed contractors and permits before they release funds which slows process.

Folks who had Flood Insurance, with no mortgage and access to "rainy day" funds are wrapping up work.

Also in regards to FEMA not paying enough. Actually FEMA has an automated program that calclulates the costs, problem is it is historical data. After large natural disasters, building supplies, contractors quickly start raising prices.

I had to buy a ton of sheet rock after Sandy. One week after Sandy, I placed a large order for Sheetrock, Spackle, Tape, Mold Removal, Nails, Studs, Pipes etc. from several wholesalers in Queens with a delayed delivery. I paid up front. I got my delivery as soon as I could get the garage cleared.

Two months later Sheetrock prices went way up. Shortages, hard to get. Contractors charging more as they had to pay more. Anyhow, FEMA calculations did not account for the price rise soon to come. System cant guess at what prices will go up to only can show what prices currently are.

One without access to an emergency fund to order the stuff ASAP, or book contractors ASAP will have to pay more, the end result is FEMA/NFIP funds then wont be enough.

Also we had people who bought in the Real Estate Bubble from Spring 2003 to Spring 2008 whose mortgage sucks up their entire income who cant afford to keep an empty house, pay rent on a second place and pay to fix it up. Some folks in Long Beach are also underwater on their houses. Not salt water, but mortgage wise.

Phase two of this will be lots of folks walking away from homes in Long Beach, there are almost 300 homes in Long Beach if various stages of pre-foreclosure, foreclosure and short sales.

Phase three will be higher flood rates and folks having trouble selling as in quick fixes hardly any permits were filed and COs will be hard to get.

Long Beach wont have a normal housing market again till 2016 and if we have no floods again in Fall of 2014 and Fall of 2015

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