Dream Homes Blog 8 – 17 – 13 – Rebuilding after Sandy
Is RREM Really RFAM? Ready..Fire..Aim..Missed!
More on the Grants – Good, Bad & Ugly II
Bureaucratic Lunacy (Bad) & Reimbursement (Good)
Greetings NJ –
Hope this post finds you doing well and enjoying your summer. There’s so much to talk about and I have been deficient in sharing it with you lately…The last few weeks have been extremely busy – and being informative and humorous actually takes effort, believe it or not. I should blog every other day, but I wait and then binge and write too much at one time. Such is life – I’m not perfect.
Much of this post discusses the RREM & HMGP grants, since they affect many people. If you are really lucky, you are working with ICC money and the HMGP grant and moving right along in your efforts. If you have applied and are working with RREM, well, keep on keepin’ on. Something will happen eventually.
Important Sobering Note: In the DCA Bulletin of 7/30/13 concerning Reimbursement (see second to last paragraph below), the last line states: “Due to limited federal funding, it is unlikely even with an additional allocation that every RREM applicant who was placed on the wait list will receive an award….those who are waitlisted should be guided by that fact as they choose whether or not to begin to repair or reconstruct their Sandy – managed home.”
IE: If you haven’t applied for the RREM, you are probably not going to get it in the future. Wait and hope at your own risk.
Unfortunately grant discussions and commentary will probably be a miserable recurring theme for a while. Keep tuned for more developments in this area. I’m just getting warmed up.
Before I get started carping and complaining about RREM, I want to mention our next Free Rebuilding Seminar, which will be held at the Holiday Inn on Rt.72 in Manahawkin on September 17, 2013 at 6 pm. We’re also introducing a new guest speaker and excellent trade partner, Andrew Baumgartner from Baumgartner House Lifting, who will be joining us. If you haven’t been to one of our seminars yet (or even if you have), you should try and make this one. No one walks out without getting great information and having specific questions answered. The rest of our panel of professionals includes Scott Lepley, architect, Steve Brasslett from Ivy First Mortgage, Tracey Giery, realtor, and Kathy Dotoli & Sandra Gauge, attorneys. I will be moderating and it’ll be an open forum for discussion to get your specific questions answered. Remember to bring your surveys and flood elevation certificates. Seating is limited and refreshments will be served. Call 732 300 5619 to reserve your space.
Is RREM Really RFAM?? Ready…Fire…Aim… Missed!!
Good, Bad & Ugly – Part II
Bad: The RREM time frame is being grossly misrepresented.
Recently, I’ve come to the conclusion that the RREM Grant actually was misnamed. It should be called RFAM for Ready…Fire…Aim…Missed!! It’s another well intentioned federal/state program, which is so cumbersome in structure and implementation that the stated goals of the program will probably be off by over an order of magnitude (1000%).
What does that mean? Try this – the next time you are writing a $6,000 tax check to the state of NJ, write it for $600, and write in the memo field “Actual tax paid was adjusted based on existing unpleasant conditions to a degree to be determined by the tax payer”. Let me know how that works out for you.
If I told you I was raising your house for $55,000 and billed you $550,000, would you notice? Probably.
If RREM is supposed to spend $600,000,000 in 6 months and spends $120,000,000 in 12 months, isn’t that unconscionable? That is an error factor over one order of magnitude (1,000%!!!) in a prediction. I think anyone rational would and should think it was absurd to accept that and unacceptable for the NJ DCA to share that information. (This is why I get no party invitations. Very few people like discussing reality since it can be sobering.)
In other words, on a macro level, “NJ, FEMA, HUD – Why are you telling us that the grant money will be disbursed 10 times faster than it actually is?”
Why not just make reasonable time predictions (Answer: that would cause a public uproar) or change the structure of the grant?
I sincerely hope I am wrong, but as of this time, there is no indication that I will be materially incorrect in my predictions.
A Really Good Thing – HMGP: The $30,000 HMGP Grant can be a better option in the event that you don’t have a need for the entire $150,000, or have started your renovation already (thus disqualifying you from eligibility for RREM grant), or if you only need to raise your house. This grant is designed to bridge the gap between the $30,000 you get from your insurance company for ICC (increased cost of compliance) money and the average cost of a lift. As much as I rail and bitch about government inefficiency, this grant was well designed and is helping many homeowners. The only shortcoming is the restriction allowing only primary homeowners. To repeat, you can choose any licensed insured contractor and must be lifting their primary residence. The great news is that with $60,000 (as opposed to just the $30,000 from ICC) the majority of lifts are now within budget. We have been doing house lifts ranging from $45,000 – $90,000, depending on the size of the house, the height of the lift, whether parking is created and the type of foundation system.
A Continued, Huge Bad Thing about the RREM Grant: Not Being Able to Pick Our Own Contractors!!!!
That is Uber Stupid. Why would any rational being restrict activity to government employees with no vested interest in the outcome?
To further clarify and repeat an excellent suggestion, since I don’t think one should bitch unless offering a better solution, “Why not let each homeowners administer their own grant money?”
That solution and implementation are relatively simple: Get rid of 75% of the people administering the process. Let every homeowner hire whoever they wish, (as long as they are licensed and insured in NJ) draw their own plans, lift or build their own houses and oversee the whole process. Life is fraught with risk – we’ll manage.
There’s little chance of scam, scandal or taking the money and moving – when new work is in place and all contractors are paid, an inspection is called for and funds are disbursed in 2 party checks to the homeowner & contractor/builder.
Simple. Quick. Rational. Elegant. Did I say simple?
Unfortunately, the situation is what it is right now. No one from Gov. Christie’s office has recently asked my opinion, so we all soldier on every day and do the best we can.
Repeat: Governor Christie – we’re big boys and girls here in NJ – we can pick our own professionals, hire our own contractors and decide what we want to build. It’s in our best interest to expect and demand the best value we can from the market – isn’t that an inherently efficient system? Does the government really want builders building, or doing paralegal and administrative work?
Stop “helping” us by tying us up in red tape, NJ. If you want things to move, let individual homeowners dictate the speed of the process – not the process dictating the speed of the work.
Good – Reimbursement was recently authorized under RREM: This is an excellent (potential) change in the program! On July 30, 2013, the DCA sent out an info bulletin. True, it doesn’t make one definitive statement in 2 pages, but the feelings and intentions sound really nice! You may now be eligible for reimbursement for money you spent prior to applying for a grant. You will probably not be eligible for reimbursement of any funds you spend after you applied (which ironically is causing activity to cease in many areas…while people are waiting…and waiting…). Still, it is a positive development.
The Reality – Dealing with the FEMA process:
Anyway, if you’re stuck in RREM hell, just hang in there. Like Winston Churchill said, “When you’re going through hell, keep going.”
Ahhh…back to RREM (RFAM)…After your initial 8 or 9 hours of consultation with a FEMA representative, expect a kind, little old lady from FEMA to show up at your house and survey it. She will be of no use, having no construction expertise, but she will determine if you qualify for RREM, HMGP, or wherever else you fall and she will probably be really nice. She will report back to the FEMA Mothership and they will send someone else. The next person will be young, come from Miami, work for HUD (The Dept. of Housing & Urban Development is a federal agency – and administers the RREM grant.) He will also be relatively useless and incompetent and achieve little, but eventually, your info will filter back to someone who can make a decision. Several weeks later you will receive the next clue to move through the maze.
Downright Ugly: If you are on a slab, you will have to demolish to get the RREM: Next unpleasant surprise – if you are on a slab and need to lift, HUD (remember – they administer the RREM Grant) will deem your house irreparable and authorize you to demolish and rebuild. That decision is made completely outside the scope of your preferences. Regardless of the fact that you are quite content with your home and can economically elevate it, your home is considered worthless and if you want to get the grant, you will have to demo and rebuild. To make matters even less palatable, you will have to choose among 9 authorized model homes, with no deviation. Good luck with that FEMA & NJ. In Kansas, people may be really well behaved. In NJ, people are (mostly) barely behaved well enough. I want to hear those conversations telling NJ residents that changes in architecture are not permitted and you have to build the state plans.
The FEMA hotline is 855 726 3946 . Call to register for either grant or go on their website at www.renewjerseystronger.org.
Hope this information helped you today. As always, if you have question, comments or just need some assistance, please don’t hesitate to call me directly at 732 300 5619.
On another note, we have been actively purchasing building lots and existing properties and have done so for many years. If you have property to sell, give me a call and I will evaluate it for you.
Stay well NJ. Keep up!
Dream Homes, Ltd.
Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC
Rebuild, Renovate, Raise or Repair Your Home from Storm Sandy
Rebuilding NJ One Home at a Time…
Residential Construction & Development for over 20 years in NJ
314 Rt.9, Forked River, NJ 08731 Mailing: PO Box 627, Forked River, NJ 08731
609 693 8881 x 102 Fax: 609 693 3802 Cell: 732 300 5619
New Home Builder License # 045894
HIC License # 13VH07489000