New Jersey will use $70 million of its federal Sandy aid to help repair rental units damaged by the storm.
The Landlord Rental Repair Program will provide grants of up to $50,000 for owners to repair, reconstruct and elevate rental units if they agree to rent the rehabilitated units to low- and moderate-income families.
The program will help about 1,500 renters as well as benefiting landlords, according to Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable.
“What we don’t want to see are impacted units that remain vacant or impacted units that are blighting communities,” Constable said Wednesday. “What we hope is that landlords take us up on this, fix up or rehab their units, and then rent them out to folks of low to moderate income.”
Nearly a third of the Ocean County properties destroyed in the storm were rentals, according to Ted Gooding, president of Ocean Inc., a Toms River-based nonprofit organization that’s been helping families affected by Sandy.
“We’re finding it every day that landlords are raising the rent on families that are here because the market is hot. We need more rental units,” Gooding said. “We need those units that were destroyed to be rehabbed and brought back on the market so we can put those folks in those homes.”
Gooding says thousands of families who lived in damaged rental units have migrated as far as Florida. Having more affordable housing will allow them to return to New Jersey so they can help staff businesses that are beginning to reopen, he said.
Considering the 15,000 families he said were forced from damaged rental units in Ocean County, Gooding was realistic in his appraisal of the program’s reach.
“Now we understand that some of those will never be able to be rebuilt because the damage was so significant or so severe that it would cost an astronomical amount of money to get them on line,” he said. “We believe that there’s at least 10,000 units we can get back on line. If we can get those 10,000 units back on line then we can get those families back into our community.”