LONG BEACH ISLAND, NJ - OCTOBER 31: A National Guard vehicle drives past homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy on October 31, 2012 in Long Beach Island, New Jersey.
Local housing rights organization Fair Share Housing Center (FSHC) says it has obtained data from the Christie Administration that shows that Latino and African-American residents applying for two major Sandy relief programs were denied by the state at higher rates than their Caucasian counterparts.
According to the FSHC, 35-percent of African American applicants and 18 percent of Latino applicants applying to the Homeowner Reconstruction, Rehabilitation Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) program were rejected by the state; while 13 percent of Caucasian applicants were denied from the same program.
Similarly, FSHC says 38 percent of African Americans and 20 percent of Latinos that applied to the Resettlement Grant Program had their applications rejected; while 14 percent of Caucasians were rejected from the same program.
President of the Latino Action Network (LAN) Frank Argote-Freyre and members of the New Jersey chapter of the NAACP reviewed the data along with FSHC and noticed inequities in both the amount of Latino and African Americans that applied for the programs, and the amount of Latino and African American residents that were approved to receive relief funds.
Argote-Freyre says he wants to know how the Christie Administration plans to correct the error.
“Given the misinformation presented to the Spanish-reading community by the Governor's relief website, I think Governor Christie should explain what he intends to do to help those who were unfairly rejected or who missed deadlines due to the administration's neglect," Argote-Freyre stated in a press release.
“We hope that these data, supplied by the Christie Administration itself, will help to shed light on why these programs are not working.”
LAN is currently in litigation with the Christie Administration. The group claims that information provided on the English version of New Jersey’s Sandy recovery web site was omitted from the Spanish version of the web site, and left many Spanish speaking Sandy victims unable to take advantage of grant program benefits.
In October, members of the LAN filed a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) arguing that the Christie Administration’s failure to provide equal access in English and Spanish to Sandy recovery grant information was a violation of federal law that deterred African Americans and Latinos from applying to the program.
New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard E. Constable, III, Esq. argued that the FSHC manipulated the data and called the accusations patently false.
“This is an outrageously false implication that exposes a complete lack of credibility and integrity by Fair Share Housing Center,” Constable said.
“To be absolutely clear, eligibility and qualification for the housing recovery programs were approved by the Obama Administration, are objectively based, and do not take race or ethnicity into account in any way whatsoever.”
LAN says, due to the state's failure to properly advertise the programs—specifically to lower income communities—that there were only 849 Latino applicants and 878 African American applicants to the Resettlement Program, compared to nearly 18,000 Caucasian applicants. Similarly, the organization says a mere 432 Latino applicants and 485 African American applicants applied to the RREM Program, compared to more than 7,000 Caucasian applicants.
According to Constable, 44 percent or nearly half of the federal Sandy relief funding has "been obligated or is out the door to people in need.” Constable says nearly three-quarters of those funds were distributed to low- or middle-income renters and homeowners.