New York City Councilmember James Oddo holds an iPad with a photo of an elevated house constructed without stairs, while Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilmember Vincent Ignizio look on. Oddo and Ignizio will introduce legislation to help prevent problems like this from occuring in New York City. (William Alatriste/New York City Council)
NEW YORK—As the Hurricane Sandy rebuilding process begins to pick up steam, some homeowners are thinking about elevating their homes to protect from future flooding.
The mitigation measure, which is not yet common in New York City, may become more popular, and some councilmembers want to ensure a safe and smooth process.
“Elevating a home is not simply lifting a house off the ground and putting it on stilts,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said. “It is a complex process and proper measures have to be taken before and during the work to make sure it is done in the safest way possible.”
Councilmembers Vincent Ignizio and James Oddo, both representing the heavily hit Staten Island, will introduce legislation at next Wednesday’s stated meeting that they hope will help keep homeowners, as well as the construction workers, safe during the process of rebuilding the homes.
“We don’t want our constituents victimized again,” Oddo said.
In late January, Ignizio and Otto visited New Orleans, which was hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, to learn firsthand what under-regulated rebuilding looked like. On a tour, the councilmembers were shown a house that had been elevated, yet no stairs had been installed.
To provide more safeguards, the new legislation will require:
-Construction plans clearly state whether a project will involve home elevation work
-Contractors give 48 hours’ notice to the Department of Buildings before elevating a home, which will give the department the opportunity to monitor the work
-Home elevation work be done under the supervision of an approved special inspector
-The Department of Consumer Affairs provide education to the public regarding the types of work home improvement contractors can do and the licenses and permits needed by such contractors to do different kinds of work, including home elevation work
Oddo said that in New Orleans, residents dealt with underbidding contractors working under minimal regulation throughout the construction project, leading to a variety of issues. One house collapsed after being elevated, leading to the death of a construction worker.
As of today, there is no government funding available for elevating houses. Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced $350 million in Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grants in early February—which have yet to be approved by HUD—for homeowners affected by Hurricane Sandy. The wording in the proposal discusses mitigation measures such as elevating housing; however, no specifics have been released.
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