Rebuilding Homes After Sandy in New York: Cuomo Proposes Green Building Requirements

Claire Moloney's picture
Claire Moloney
June 26, 2014

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York unveiled his plan for the first $1.7 billion of Hurricane Sandy recovery funding, which includes green building and energy efficiency requirements for rebuilding homes.

On March 12, 2013, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York submitted his proposal for the first $1.7 billion in Hurricane Sandy relief funding from Congress.  In January, President Obama signed off on $60 billion for Hurricane Sandy disaster relief.  It's estimated that more than half will go to New York State, but so far the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has only requested New York's application for the first $1.7 billion.  The money is specifically allotted to homeowners, small businesses and communities who were affected by Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.  HUD must approve the proposal before New York State government can begin to distribute the money.

The governor's action plan (available here) distributes a total of $788 million to single family homes, including: $233 million for home repair and reconstruction, $259 million to home resilience, and $171 million to a home buyout program.  It gives $124 million to multi-family housing, including $31 million for repair and reconstruction, $62 million for small multi-family mitigation, and $31 million for large multi-family mitigation. 

It also allocates $415 million to businesses, $20 million to an "infrastructure bank", $25 million to a community reconstruction zones program, and $30 million for resilience retrofits for critical locations, such as hospitals.  Of course, as future funding is doled out by HUD, these programs will likely receive more funding

Green Retrofits: Rebuilding Homes After Sandy

Governor Cuomo's grants and loans were not without strings attached: many of them require that rebuilding or retrofitting efforts meet certain energy efficiency or green building requirements.  For example, the majority of funding for rebuilding or repairing single family and multi-family homes requires that reconstruction or renovation projects must incorporate green building standards, while retrofits to "non-substantially damaged buildings" must meet the requirements in the HUD Green Building Retrofit Checklist.  This means that reconstruction and repair efforts may create work for green building professionals who have an understanding of green homes, energy efficiency and sustainable building strategies.

While the impacts of Hurricane Sandy in New York were truly devastating - leaving up to 300,000 homes damaged or destroyed, fourteen counties declared as federal disaster areas, and sixty citizens dead - there is a silver lining: Governor Cuomo's green building and energy efficiency requirements, paired with stronger, more resilient building strategies, will make New York's buildings better suited for the future. 

As New Yorkers may recall, Governor Cuomo was one of the first politicians to acknowledge that Hurricane Sandy was a direct result of climate change, saying, "there have been a series of extreme weather events. That is not a political statement; that is a factual statement. Anyone who says there is not a change in weather patterns is denying reality.”

These requirements for all New Yorkers who receive funding to build stronger and greener not only help to prevent future damage from natural disasters, but also to prevent climate change itself from worsening.  With so many coastal regions, New York (and New York City, especially) is susceptible to extreme weather events, so its in the state's best interest to combat these environmental changes.


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