Nearly 2 years after Ida, Manville residents are forced to choose between leaving their homes or paying for repairs themselves

Nearly 2 years after Ida, Manville residents are forced to choose between leaving their homes or paying for repairs themselves / August 15, 2023 / CBS NY

By Christine Sloan

Residents of Manville were told they’d get financial help from the state after the remnants of opens in a new windowHurricane Ida slammed the New Jersey borough, but nearly two years later, many are being forced to choose between leaving their homes or paying tens of thousands of dollars out of their own pocket to fix them.

Traumatic memories of escaping her home during Ida with her then-7-year-old daughter still haunt Maryann Morris.

“She is so scared, and every time it rains, I have to be the one to be strong for her,’ she said. “We were running through water to my neighbor’s house. We sat there in her house and watched the water just come in and take with it everything.”

It was the same nightmare for Stefanie Hosgood and her family, which they say they’re now having to relive.

“The waters were past his knees back here,” she said.

Hosgood, Morris and 37 other Manville homeowners were just notified by the state that they no longer qualify for money they were counting on to repair and elevate their homes. Their only options now are to take a buyout from the state or pay out of their own pockets to rebuild.

Hosgood fears the offer won’t make up for what she’s spent.

“Thanks to Ida, our credit is shot. There’s no chance of being able to afford a home that is not in a flood zone,” she said. “I just want to have the basics for my kids and to just feed them.”

“They told us they would help us, and now they are abandoning us. Why? I want to know why,” Morris said.

Morris says she’s been told she’s not eligible for the buyout due to a lien on her home as a result of a huge disaster loan she took out for indoor repairs.

“I am going to wind up in foreclosure. I’m going to wind up– my daughter and I risk of homelessness. What state does that to a family?” Morris said.

The single mom says she’ll stay but can’t afford to elevate her home like the house next-door.

“We just have to stay and take the risk,” she said.

The head of New Jersey’s disaster recovery office says while residents were encouraged to apply for programs, rules haven’t changed.

“No one was told they’re getting an elevation or they’re getting a buyout. It was apply, and number one, you have to qualify,” said Dan Kelly, the office’s executive director.

Kelly says it takes time to determine how to allocate federal funds, especially in an area that’s seen three catastrophic events putting the lives of both first responders and residents at risk.

“High-velocity water with trees, debris, oil tanks, cars, homes on fire. It’s an incredibly dangerous area. That’s where an elevation isn’t the right tool for the job,” he said.

There are dozens and dozens of empty lots in this town where homes once stood. The people CBS New York’s Christine Sloan talked to say even if they wanted to sell their homes, they don’t think they can, but Manville’s mayor says people still want to live there.

“We feel an elevation program is right for Manville. We want to keep rateables in town and keep property taxes level,” Mayor Richard Onderko said.

The mayor says he was blindsided, too.

“Two years out from the event, they have changed the policy where they will not fund elevations in predominately the entire town, and we think that’s unfair,” he said.

Kelly says the borough’s been pushing for buyouts since before Ida and the state will work with homeowners.

“We encourage our homeowners to talk to our programs,” he said.

“No one should ever be put in this position. We should have choices,” Morris said.

A position she says has her American dream of home ownership slipping away.

New Jersey’s Department of Emergency Management and the Department of Community Affairs are in charge of disaster recovery programs.

The state says more meetings with residents are scheduled in the fall, but a spokesperson for a New Jersey group helping Ida flood victims says residents are running out of time.

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