Houses all along the Jersey shore, damaged by Sandy, are going back up — way up.
Earlier this month, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection announced the recipients of the first hazard-mitigation elevation grants. Twenty-six homeowners in Brigantine, Atlantic County will be eligible for up to $30,000 each to raise their homes to protect against future flooding and storm surges.
New Jersey has pledged $100 million in such grants, through funding from FEMA. In all, the money will help elevate some 2,700 primary homes in the nine counties most severely affected by Superstorm Sandy. Another 630 grants, including 90 more in Brigantine are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
Superstorm Sandy, which slammed into the Jersey shore on October 29, 2012, damaged or destroyed 346,000 homes in New Jersey and caused about $37 billion in damage.
Work is already beginning in Brigantine, where often modest houses are being raised five or six feet up on pilings.
“Life in the air is fine,” Brigantine resident Lee Popick told philly.com. “It’s kind of nice up here. You get a nice view. More wind.”
Raising houses up, does however, impose new challenges even as it helps protect against flooding. For elderly residents, moving their entire home “upstairs” as it were poses a whole new series of accessibility issues — for example suddenly needing an elevator just to make it to your front door.
Ryan Penn of Mobility 123 told philly.com that his company has installed 15 wheelchair lifts at $15,000 each and another 50 stair lifts as a result of Sandy home elevations.
“We expect that to double or triple in 2014,” he told philly.com
While home elevation companies and elevator installers may be doing brisk business in the area, poll results released Monday by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, show that small businesses in the affected tri-state area are still hurting.
The poll found that two-thirds of the 950 companies surveyed that suffered losses during the storm received no insurance payments. Half of the businesses had no option but to cover their storm-related losses with personal resources. About 22 percent of those companies that reported losses said they lost more than $100,000
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, said that while he is glad to see houses being elevated along the Jersey shore, he has concerns about whether five or six additional feet was really enough extra height in the face of climate change.
“We need not only to elevate homes, but we need to move people out of harm’s way,” Tittel told nj.com. “Some of the areas we are giving money to elevate may be areas better off for buyouts.”
Far from people abandoning the Jersey Shore, the New York Times has reported that Superstorm Sandy may have actually spurred a new Jersey shore real estate boom as interested buyers try to snatch up waterfront properties while prices remain depressed in the wake of the storm damage.
Despite the rush to rebuild along the shore, a recent Rutgers University study found that 62 percent of New Jersey residents support land use restrictions to make coastal communities less vulnerable to hurricane damage.