Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Group Claims Sandy Aid Has Been Discriminatory

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Group Claims Sandy Aid Has Been Discriminatory

Article excerpt

Governor Christie's administration has turned over more than a thousand pages of documents related to federal housing grants for Superstorm Sandy victims, a housing advocacy group said Tuesday, four months after it sued to obtain the information.

The Fair Share Housing Center said the documents reveal a disorganized system of processing applications that in effect discriminated against Latino and African-American applicants, and that changed its policies without informing the public. The group said it sought the documents after receiving calls from homeowners who said they were confused about the housing grant programs.

The group said it plans to publish the documents on its website in the coming weeks.

Richard Constable, the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, which administers the grants, disputed the allegations in a lengthy statement issued by a spokeswoman Tuesday night. "Race and ethnicity absolutely did not factor in to the application processing," Constable said.

He said the state used a random application process to ensure that low- and moderate-income and elderly and disabled residents were given equal access to funds to rebuild their homes or move elsewhere in the same county.

"Fair Share Housing Center's continued barrage of alarmist press releases about the administration's housing recovery efforts are inaccurate, misleading and not constructive to the thousands of Sandy-impacted families whom we strive to help daily," he said in the statement.

Adam Gordon, Fair Share's staff attorney, said it took several conferences with a judge to persuade the state to release documents showing who was given grants and the state's policies for awarding them. The center is still analyzing hundreds of pages of documents, Gordon said, but it was clear that Latino and African-American applicants were disproportionately rejected for rebuilding funds.

"The rates of success in terms of people getting funding vary dramatically by race, ethnicity and geography," he said, adding that Fair Share plans to support that claim by releasing the documents that the state gave it. …

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