N.J. grants available to help homeowners elevate Sandy-ravaged residences

 One homeowner in Brick Township has already decided to elevate a house that was damaged by Sandy's storm surge. (Phil Gregory/for NewsWorks)

One homeowner in Brick Township has already decided to elevate a house that was damaged by Sandy's storm surge. (Phil Gregory/for NewsWorks)

New Jersey residents in the nine counties hardest hit by Sandy can now apply for grants to elevate their homes.

The $100 million program will provide grants of up to $30,000 to help residents protect their homes from future flooding, according to Gov. Chris Christie, who visited Brick Monday to talk about details of the program.

Resident Barbara Burke, who said the storm surge sent 5 feet of water from nearby Barnegat Bay into her home on Valencia Drive, was glad to hear the news.

She is determined to have the house elevated, but said she cannot afford to have the work done on her own.

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“I’ve only had one estimate and that came in at $87,000. So that’s a little bit more than I can afford. I’ve been here since 1973. This is my home. This is where I raised my children,” she said. “I don’t want to leave.”

The average house elevation cost ranges from $30,000 to $75,000, according to Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin. Residents will have to come up with some of their own funds to pay for the work.

“Once you’ve got your money together, because most of the elevation is going to be above $30,000, you have to either have insurance or money of your own to put into it in a lot of cases,” he said.

And there is another condition.

“You cannot have started your work already on the home,” Martin said. “That’s a federal requirement. You have to have waited to start it.

Christie is urging residents whose homes sustained flood damage in the nine counties to apply for the grants.

“We can’t give you a subsidy for flood insurance, but we’re giving you a subsidy to elevate your home,” the governor said. “So, net-net when you look at it, it’s going to be a benefit in the long term — not only in terms of protecting your property but also in terms of the cost you’re going to have in the long term for your flood insurance.”

Brick Mayor Steve Acropolis calculates there are more than 4,000 houses in the town that will eventually need to be elevated. The grant program is expected to assist about 2,700 homeowners.

The mayor, who has applied for one of the grants, said as many as 6,000 houses eventually may have to be elevated in Brick.

“When the maps actually come out officially in August, that starts the period of appeals, so at that point we’ll get a firm number,” he said.

Ken Sosnowski, a Valencia Drove resident, also intends to apply for a grant so he can elevate his home while he rebuilds.

“We’re normal people. We scrimped and saved and cashed in some things. We got two kids in college, but we always wanted to live on the water,” he said. “This was our dream. It still is. We love it down here.”

The deadline to apply is Sept. 15.

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