December 2, 2013
FEMA News Desk: 877-434-4084
NJOEM PIO Contact: 609-963-6818
Acquisition: Rebuilding Homes and Lives on Safer Ground
LINCROFT, N.J.-- In New Jersey, Superstorm Sandy destroyed or damaged 40,500 primary residences. Two years ago, in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, FEMA granted nearly $152 million to New Jersey for housing assistance. After Hurricane Floyd, just over a decade before Irene, FEMA issued Disaster Housing Assistance Grants to more than l72,700 households.
New Jersey is no stranger to the loss of life and property caused by coastal storms, nor to the time, money and energy it takes to rebuild in the days and months that follow. Many residents of low-lying coastal regions have found their living situations unsustainable as storm after storm devastates houses, neighborhood and communities. But some communities have made a way out of the damage cycle with the use of acquisition or buyout grants.
One of New Jersey’s main priorities after major storm damage is to acquire land where repetitive flood loss is common and convert it to open space, thereby reducing the loss of life and property. This process is called acquisition.
FEMA, through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, has granted $55,249,816 to the state so far for the acquisition of properties in the aftermath of Sandy, and plans to award $100 million total.
Homeowners do not apply directly to FEMA for acquisition. Instead, the state and local communities work together to identify areas where buyouts make the most sense. Local officials then get input from the community and those homeowners with destroyed or severely damaged properties, as well as from the state and FEMA, to ensure that the acquisition applications are environmentally sound and cost-effective. The Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, instituted by FEMA, covers 75 percent of the costs, and 25 percent is matched by non-federal sources.
After the state, (the grantee) decides its priorities in terms of funds usage, FEMA Hazard Mitigation Program Guidance allows the subgrantee to offer homeowners pre-disaster fair market value for their homes. Buyouts are always voluntary, and homeowners may opt out of participation.
All properties acquired by communities for mitigation are then converted to open land.
Acquisition Success Stories
More and more New Jersey communities are recognizing acquisition as a permanent solution to a recurring problem.
In 2005, two successive flooding disasters destroyed six homes in Harmony Township in Warren County. At the request of Harmony Township, Green Acres and FEMA provided funding for acquisition. Those six properties have been cleared to prevent further property damage and now provide access points to the Delaware River for visitors to the area.
Acquisition: Rebuilding Homes and Lives on Safer Ground – PAGE 2
Even without FEMA’s 75 percent cost share, state organizations like the Green Acres Program successfully convert properties throughout New Jersey into safe and accessible open areas, such as parks and wildlife habitats, which by law must remain open land forever through deed restriction.
Green Acres and the State Agriculture Development Committee converted 1,900 acres in central New Jersey using open space funds, creating a 512-acre State Wildlife Management Area, and a 500-acre addition to Monmouth County public greenways.
In Manchester Township, a joint acquisition effort coordinated between the Green Acres Program and the U.S. Navy added 246 acres to the Manchester Wildlife Management Area in Ocean County, which will also serve as a protective buffer for the Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station.
Communities that opt into the acquisition process not only protect their citizenry, but also make it possible to create an even more beautiful New Jersey coast, with open space for community residents and visitors alike.
And for many New Jersey residents, buyout is the opportunity to at least partially recoup an investment in a property that has lost value after multiple storms. It also provides the possibility of safety, peace of mind and a new start.
Homeowners do not apply directly to FEMA to participate in the acquisition process. Instead, they can contact their local emergency management office to learn more about Hazard Mitigation programs available to their community.
FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.
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