New Jersey Will Buy Flood-Prone Homes in ’13

By GEOFF MULVIHILL | April 18, 2013

New Jersey officials plan to unveil a plan in the next two to three weeks for buying out roughly 1,000 flood-prone homes from owners who want to sell them, a state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman said Tuesday.

photo: AIR Worldwide
photo: AIR Worldwide

Since Superstorm Sandy struck the state nearly six months ago, the idea of rebuilding has drawn a lot of attention, but officials are also trying to decide whether some places are too flood-prone to inhabit again. Some environmentalists have called for a broad program of buying out homeowners and turning their property into floodplains.

In recent months, Gov. Chris Christie has laid out a few details of his intentions: He wants to buy swaths of land, not just scattered properties so that floodplains can be made; he does not want to force people to sell; and he’s hoping the federal government will send the state $250 million in flood-relief funds for the program.

In a legislative hearing Monday, state Environmental Protection commissioner Bob Martin said the hope is to buy about 1,000 homes.

Larry Ragonese, a spokesman for Martin, said Tuesday that sales would begin this year and would follow a plan that’s to be made public in the next few weeks.

Ragonese said DEP employees have spoken with a few dozen communities in their hunt for places that are subject to serious flooding and where property owners want to sell in a quest for the right place. He said about a dozen towns have serious interest.

He said some parts of Sayreville may be good candidates; Christie said last month that though Union Beach was one of the state’s most battered communities in Sandy, most owners want to rebuild rather than sell and buyouts are not expected there.

“We’re trying to scientifically scout this out,” Ragonese said.

Ragonese said the 1,000 homes figure – an average of $250,000 per property, if the state is able to spend $250 million on the program – is derived from property values in the areas where buyouts may happen.

On New York City’s Staten Island, officials are offering property owners who want to sell 100 percent of the pre-storm value of their homes and offering extra incentives for those in particularly bad floodplains and for people who will remain in the borough.

It’s not clear whether New Jersey will offer similar incentives.

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