News Column

Sandy Knocks NJ Home Values Down by $45,000

March 19, 2013

Michael Symons

New Jersey homes damaged by superstorm Sandy lost an average of nearly $45,000 of value, wiping away nearly $1 billion of property wealth and raising the prospect that the burden for shouldering local tax levies may be shifted to residents whose homes weren't directly damaged.

The state's home-value survey was referenced in the "action plan" Gov. Chris Christie's administration filed last Tuesday with the federal government for how it plans to spend the $1.83 billion in block-grant funds. That money is being provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to assist in rebuilding from the late October storm.

Through March 1, the Division of Taxation had surveyed nearly 20,000 damaged homes and found the average home's taxable value fell $44,883. That amounts to roughly $900 million in lost property wealth, with additional towns still to be added to the survey before it is completed over the next two weeks.

The plan doesn't provide context about the average home's total value; the average home in the state in 2011 was valued at just under $300,000, but the two counties that suffered the most storm damage -- Monmouth and Ocean, which had 41 percent of damaged homes -- had higher averages.

Department of the Treasury spokesman Bill Quinn declined to release the draft report but said the final version will be released when it it completed.

The survey was cited in a section of the plan outlining a proposal to provide grants of up to $10,000 for up to 20,000 homeowners who agree to stay in their homes and help rebuild damaged neighborhoods, rather than sell or abandon their homes. The state says that in addition to diminished property values, homeowners face higher home insurance premiums, expenses to elevate their homes and concerns that neighbors will move away.

Sixty percent of the $200 million planned for the Homeowner Resettlement Program would be provided to low- and moderate-income households in the nine counties hardest hit by the storm: Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean and Union. The funds will be available only for primary residences that suffered major or severe storm damage, and the money would have to be returned if a homeowner moves within two years.

The program is not yet in effect. The state has proposed it in its plan, which is still awaiting federal approval.

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Source: (c)2013 Asbury Park Press (Neptune, N.J.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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