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New Program Seeks to Fill Vacant Units With Storm Victims

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In order to supplement New York City's shelter systems, government officials are creating a program that would match residents displaced by Hurricane Sandy with vacant apartments. Many large apartment buildings will take months to repair, and hundreds of families may soon seek shelter as temperatures begin to drop, likely putting a strain on available shelters. The Times reports that the Obama administration is expected to announce a rebuilding program for NYC and Connecticut that includes a system where people who apply for FEMA would be connected with landlords of vacant properties. The tenants would pay rent with a FEMA voucher or find an apartment through Red Cross.

However, FEMA only pays up to $1,800 a month for rent, which would cover most housing in Brooklyn and Queens, but would fall short for Manhattan. Additionally, landlords had legal concerns over short-term tenants in stabilized buildings and whether or not they would be compensated for damages if they were forced to evict a tenant. Officials are also unsure how many units this program would even create, as the city's vacancy rate is in the single digits, and many big real estate companies, like LeFrak, have already filled their vacant units with people displaced from other buildings that they own.
· US Asks NY Landlords for Vacant Apartments to House Displaced Families [NYT]
Photo of destruction in the Rockaways, by Nathan Kensinger