New Jersey adds $75M to flooded-home buyout program

New Jersey is adding another $75 million to its program to buy and demolish homes in flood-prone areas, this time in a Raritan Bay community that was damaged by Superstorm Sandy.

Republican Gov. Chris Christie announced Monday that the state is adding money to its Blue Acres program for Keansburg and other communities.

It's designed to buy and knock down homes in areas that flood repeatedly. But none of the 689 homes bought under the program has been along the ocean. Instead, many have been along rivers and bays, which also have received flood damage.

"The expansion of this successful program will provide a lifeline and new hope for hundreds of additional families, ensuring they can live free from the looming threat of future storms, disasters and floods," Christie said. "This extra infusion of state money will help the Blue Acres program to convert several hundred more at-risk homes in Keansburg and elsewhere around the state into safe open-space opportunities."

Of the nearly 900 purchase offers made as of Monday, 610 acquisitions have closed and 475 homes have been demolished.

"Christie is taking credit for the last $75 million of Blue Acres money, but that doesn't change the fact that we still don't have a stable source of funding and need to do more," said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. "While sea level rise and flooding has gotten worse, there is no state funding available, and we aren't buying out homes along the coast. Buying out a home in a flood-prone area is important because it allows the restoration of flood plains and protects other properties from damage."

The voluntary program relies upon willing sellers and does not use force or condemnation proceedings. State officials have repeatedly said since Sandy that owners of oceanfront property, even in places devastated by the storm, have not been willing to sell to the state.

In addition to Keansburg, the program has bought and demolished houses in Sayreville, South River, Woodbridge, Old Bridge and East Brunswick in Middlesex County; Manville in Somerset County; Pompton Lakes in Passaic County; Newark in Essex County; Rahway and Linden in Union County; Lawrence and Downe in Cumberland County; New Milford in Bergen County; and Ocean Township in Monmouth County.


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