The announcement that the federal government will provide $300
million to start buying out houses in certain flood-prone areas
brought a joy of relief to many homeowners anxious for a fresh start
after seeing superstorm Sandy destroy their neighborhoods.
We support these buyouts in order to get homes out of flood- prone zones while providing new open space in those areas that can better sustain flooding. And while Governor Christie has suggested that residents pressure their reluctant neighbors, that may not be necessary at this point.
The state will administer the buyout offers to willing homeowners through its existing Blue Acres Program. The process could start in the next month or two with the first closings expected by Labor Day and the rest done within a year.
The initial targets for buyouts will include approximately 350 homes in Middlesex County and Cumberland County, but more areas are expected to be added in the future.
Christie said this will be voluntary and doesn't want the state to use eminent domain to seize any properties from homeowners. But the key to this initiative is that groups of homes in neighborhoods are sold together. It can't be a piece-by-piece deal if it is to be effective. That way the land can be turned into open space without one remaining home that will be even more vulnerable to future flooding.
While many residents of the areas in the initial buyout zone sound excited for this opportunity, there may still be some holdouts -- which could potentially cause problems.
"I hate to think that because of two to three families who do not want to participate that that would stop us from moving forward and picking up the pieces of our lives," a Sayreville resident told Staff Writer Melissa Hayes at Christie's town hall-style event on Thursday.
Christie said the state will seek an "overwhelming majority" and might allow buyouts even if one or two owners won't participate. But he also encouraged residents to try persuading their neighbors to join in, and joked that they "use the gentle persuasion that New Jerseyans are known for all across America."
But we feel the housing market could dictate this move as necessary without anyone's "gentle persuasion." If someone has the lone house on a flood-prone street it could be very hard to sell it in the future. Prospective buyers will be able to easily read the writing on the wall -- especially if there are only one or two houses with walls up left in that neighborhood.
There's no hiding the fact that it's in a flood zone and will most likely suffer great damage in the next major storm. When that happens -- and it appears strong storms are happening more frequently than in the past -- that lone house will be the only buffer from the rising waters, so the destruction will be great.
The value that homeowners will get from the federal government for their properties hasn't been established yet. People have the right to live where they want as long as they're not harming the public safety. But we expect that most, if not all, homeowners will be smart about this.
If people find themselves surrounded by nothing, they may soon find that their homes are worth nothing.
(c) 2013 Record, The; Bergen County, N.J.. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.
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