Poor Renters, not Middle Class Homeowners, Were Hardest Hit by Sandy

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the news media were fixated on the plight of middle-class homeowners in places like the Rockaways in Queens. But two new reports show that low-income renters were the more prevalent victims of the storm.
March 8, 2013, 7am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Matt Chaban discusses the findings of two new studies released this week - one by the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at NYU [PDF], the other by affordable housing developers Enterprise Community Partners [PDF] - that show "Sandy is more likely to have struck a low-income family that rents an apartment than a more well-off one that owns a home."

According to Chaban, the studies "found that of the 150,000 families who have applied for FEMA housing aid, 56% were renters, rather than homeowners. What's more it found that 61% of applicants make less than $60,000 a year, with half that group making less than $15,000 a year."

"'With almost 50% of households making $30,000 a year or less, this is a big deal,' said Shola Olatoye, vice president and New York market leader at Enterprise. 'These are low-income families already in need, and Sandy has made things so much worse.'"

"The authors of the studies hope that their data will help drive the policy debates to come," adds Chaban. "With tens of billions of dollars in federal aid at stake, they believe the money must be spent carefully, and may not even be enough to cover the recovery costs. After all, renters are not typically the ones with the insurance policies, so it can be hard to force a landlord to make repairs."

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Published on Wednesday, March 6, 2013 in Crain's New York Business
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