SOUTH RIVER – During a tour of a Sandy-impacted South River neighborhood today, Gov. Chris Christie announced that the first post-Superstorm Sandy buyout offers were made this week to Sayreville homeowners, who have been offered pre-storm value for their properties.
These first offers came from a field of 129 Sayreville homes that have been approved for buyouts by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), while applications were filed last week with FEMA for the acquisition and demolition of another 85 homes from willing sellers in sections of South River and Sayreville. Dozens more offers are expected in the next four to six weeks, with closings expected to begin before Labor Day.
“We are committed to the process of moving willing sellers in flood-prone areas out of harm’s way,” said Christie. “We promised these residents an expedited buyout process to help them move on with their lives as quickly as possible. We intend to keep that promise.’’
FEMA had previously awarded nearly $29.5 million in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funding for the 129 Sayreville purchases. The state will finance the remainder of what is expected to be the total $39 million cost for the first 129 homes, with all closings to be completed within one year. An estimated cost of $18.1 million is expected for the filed applications for the South River and Sayreville purchases, which includes a grouping of 76 homes in South River and 9 in Sayreville. An initial informational meeting with representatives from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), FEMA and other key agencies was held last week in South River to help ease those 85 residents through the buyout process.
“We know these are very difficult choices for families to make, to sell their homes and move from places they have long lived,’’ said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. “We are committed to moving this process along quickly and smoothly, to work closely with FEMA to get applications processed promptly, and with minimal red tape, so families impacted by Sandy can move on with their lives and start over again.”
These buyout offers are part of the administration’s overall plan to acquire approximately 1,000 homes impacted by Sandy and another 300 repetitively flood-damaged homes in the Passaic River Basin at a total estimated cost of $300 million. In addition to providing fair market, pre-Sandy payouts to residents, the acquisition and demolition of these properties will eliminate the need for future disaster assistance since the land where these homes once stood will be maintained in perpetuity as open space.
Meanwhile, the state will continue to submit buyout applications to FEMA for other properties on a rolling basis over the next several months. The state is particularly targeting clusters of homes and entire neighborhoods for buyouts. The homes will be razed and the land will be maintained as open space that can handle future flood waters.
Representatives of the DEP’s Blue Acres programs are in discussions regarding buyouts with officials and willing sellers in several other municipalities, including Woodbridge and Old Bridge. They also are personally visiting towns that have an interest in the Sandy buyout program. The DEP has created a special team to work closely with willing sellers and process their applications as quickly as possible. Case managers are working with individual homeowners personally to help guide them through the process.
The buyout program is a joint effort of the DEP, State Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and FEMA. DEP administers all Blue Acres purchases and OEM handles the financing through FEMA.
When it was first established, the Blue Acres Program targeted purchase of lands in floodways in the Delaware, Passaic and Raritan rivers basins, but was later expanded to include all state waters. Eligible properties are those that have been storm damaged, that are prone to incurring storm damage, or that may buffer or protect other lands from such damage.
Homeowners interested in selling their homes through this process may contact the DEP’s Blue Acres Program at 609-984-0500.
For more information on the Blue Acres Program, visit: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/greenacres/blue_flood_ac.html.
For information on Sandy Recovery, visit: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/special/hurricane-sandy/.
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