New South Wales flood victims are being forced to live in their water-ruined homes as they continue to wait for government financial assistance almost two months after the disaster.
Flood-affected residents across the state were last month promised up to $20,000 under the ‘Back Home’ grant to help replace goods, reconnect utilities, and carry out structural repairs to make their homes safe and habitable.
But thousands are still waiting to receive much-needed funds, leaving families forking out rental costs on top of mortgages or camping inside their mould-ridden properties.
Premier Dominic Perrottet on Thursday revealed only 125 of 5900 applications for the scheme have been processed and just 1 in 10 have been granted.
Left with little choice, Lismore residents have started moving back into the shells of their homes, stripped bare as they await restoration.
Jahnaya Mumford, who has been paying $350 weekly mortgage payments and $500-a-week for rent, plans to move back into her gutted home with her three kids in two weeks.
Thousands of NSW flood victims are still waiting for government grants to help them fix their water-damaged homes. Pictured: Lismore in NSW on March 30, 2022
Currently on maternity leave, the additional costs have been straining on the 32-year-old and her partner, who have only received the initial $3000 flood emergency help payment from the government.
The interior walls have been removed and, without a kitchen, they will be using a barbeque and plug-in-frying pan to cook.
‘Hopefully, I’ll be moving back in two weeks, without a kitchen but with power and hot water,’ Ms Mumford told the Daily Telegraph.
‘I haven’t got the money for a kitchen,’ she said.
Ms Mumford’s brother and friends have launched a fundraiser to help the family get back into their abode, with lining the inside set to cost $15,000 without labour.
On top of slow insurance claims and grant applications, the crisis has sparked a shortage of rentals in northern NSW as pledged emergency accommodation never eventuated.
Ms Mumford said she has been applied for accommodation housing but is yet to hear back from anyone.
On Thursday, it was revealed only 125 of 5900 applications for the payment had been processed. Pictured: Lismore in NSW on March 28
Due to the red tape, she is also waiting for her insurance company to formally reject her request so she can apply for the grant, which is co-funded by the NSW and Commonwealth governments.
Neighbour Liz Swift is in a similar boat after being left with little choice but to move back into her water-damaged home.
She has spent almost eight weeks couch surfing with friends and family, but has just set up a campsite inside her lounge room while she continues repairs.
There are still mouldy plaster walls that need removal, the kitchen has been stripped, and the force of the water has pushed the eastern wall away from the floor.
‘Lots have moved back in because there is nowhere else to go, really. It is hard not having a home to go to,’ she said.
‘I’m working on the $20,000, but at this stage I’ve just had the three $1000 payments, so I’ve been living off that.’
Ms Swift said she will need a new kitchen and bathroom, and her father and brother – both builders – will fortunately be able to assist.
However, with her dad having lost his house and her brother his business, it will be a matter of time until all of their respective restorations are complete.
Clive Tresidder and partner Debbie Grant, who also live on Casino St, have set up a living space in his lounge room with a bed and a TV.
Residents have started moving back into their properties while they wait for vital restorations. Pictured: Staff clean up after flood damage at Miss Brown vintage clothing in Byron Bay on March 31
As a pensioner, Mr Tressider could not afford the $10,000 a year needed to insure his home and is also waiting for his insurance company to knock him back so he can apply for the grant.
The $112 million Back Home grant to assist residents the Hawkesbury, Ballina, Byron, Clarence Valley, Kyogle, Lismore, Richmond Valley and Tweed Local Government Areas was announced in mid March, before officially opening on April 21.
Under the scheme, owner-occupiers are eligible for one-off payments of $20,000, landlords $15,000, and $5000 for renters.
Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government Victor Dominello said more than 10,000 homes had been assessed as damaged, with more than 4,000 assessed as uninhabitable across the State.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole said getting residents back home was a ‘priority’.
‘Housing continues to be one of our most pressing priorities in flood-affected communities, especially across the Northern Rivers, and this package helps support their rebuild and recovery,’ Mr Toole said on Thursday.
‘We want to see people safely back in their homes. This grant provides payments to help people make critical repairs like fixing roofs, reconnecting utilities or replacing furniture and whitegoods.’
Pictured: A man pushes water out of a flood-affected business in Lismore on March 31