In Sandy's aftermath, homes may be hard to replace

(CBS News) STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. - Homes in New York City severely damaged by hurricane sandy will be demolished. City officials say about 200 buildings will be bulldozed in the coming days. About 500 other damaged homes and structures are still being inspected and could meet a similar fate. And replacing what was lost won't be easy.

"The water was already coming up to the window," recalled Michael Peters, "and inside the house it was already above my knees."

It was a harrowing night for Peters, his wife and four daughters when Hurricane Sandy swept their three-room home off its foundation two weeks ago, forcing them to spend the night on the roof.

Video: Obama visits Sandy victims on Staten Island
Sandy outages shorter than from other big storms
Video: Sandy makes rental cars scarce in NYC area

"We were there from 9.p.m. at night all the way til 8 a.m. in the morning...even with a three-year-old," said Peters.

For now they're staying at Mount Manresa, a religious retreat housing more than a dozen families. They're among the 47,000 New Yorkers who've applied for housing help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Asked if he feels safe, Peters responded: "Oh, yes. Definitely. We feel secure. And the children are happy."

Finding a permanent place to live is perhaps the biggest challenge for victims of Sandy. Housing around New York is scarce and expensive. The average rent is $3,000 a month.

Two tent cities have been set up in New Jersey. Gov. Chris Christie says he'll open up a military base for families. FEMA has also delivered mobile homes.

There are 60 FEMA disaster recovery centers, including the one at Mount Manresa. Storm victims can apply for up to $31,900 for repairs or rent. So far, they've given cash assistance to nearly 30,000 people.

Mike Byrne is with FEMA. "A lot of homes can be repaired," he said, and that's we certainly want to do that. But the destroyed homes, it's going to take longer to do that."

"I don't care about all the things I lost," said Peters. "I'm just glad that my kids and I and my wife survived it."

Michael Peters applied for FEMA aid a week ago. But whatever he gets, he'll never be able to return home. It's been condemned.

  • Michelle Miller

    Michelle Miller is an award-winning CBS News correspondent based in New York, reporting for all CBS News broadcasts and platforms. Her work regularly appears on the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley", "CBS This Morning" and "CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood". She joined CBS News in 2004.