We were founded in October 2014 by Sandy survivors fighting to get home. Our actions and efforts have made a real impact. Yet, we’re still fighting to make sure everyone is home and can afford to stay, while new problems have emerged.
When Sandy hit the East Coast in October 2012 it caused 71 billion dollars in damage and 72 deaths. In New Jersey, 325,000 housing unites suffered some form of damage. Approximately 40,000 primary homeowners faced sever or substantial damage, and approximately 10,000 renters also lost their homes. Those families found themselves trying to navigate a recovery system that wasn’t working for them without a unified voice. That’s why we launched the NJOP.
As the four year anniversary approaches, we continue the fight to ensure families get home. We’d love to be able to tell you how many people are home, of the estimated 40,000 homes that were severely damaged or destroyed. The thing is, no one can. The state is only tracking the progress in RREM, and that’s about 8,300 people. So this year, we’re launching an ambitious community survey project. And we need you to help us reach as many families as possible!
We’re ramping up the fight to stop foreclosures on Sandy impacted families and hold crooked contractors accountable this fall. And we are always working to reach families who still need help and connect them to the resources that are available – including each other. We’re the experts and learn from one another’s experiences. Please sign up on our contact form to be part of the survey team and/or join the fight to stop foreclosures and crooked contractors.
We won the creation of a Rental Assistance Program, and then led a coalition of communities and elected officials to extend rental assistance for families still out of their homes. That resulted in an additional investment of approximately fifteen million dollars in our families and communities, and a life-line to help many hold on until they’re home.
We worked with allies and Senate President Sweeney to pass the Efficiency and Transparency in Sandy Recovery Spending Act. The legislation meant for the first time Sandy survivors received a timeline, report on where they were and what else they needed to do make their way through the program. It also required the state to be more transparent overall about the program’s progress, including reporting unused or unspent recovery funds to the legislature. We’re proud of the progress we’ve made, together.
Because of the legislation, you can now track the progress of the recovery programs now on a special “transparency” link here.
And we managed to get a bill to stop foreclosures on Sandy families to the Governor’s desk. He vetoed it. We don’t give up, we are working on a new and better version that has already passed the assembly.
New problems continue to emerge.
It started to become clear that in addition to the normal problems navigating the RREM program, people were having a hard time hanging on financially. In February of 2015 the Asbury Park Press reported that foreclosures were on the rise in Sandy impacted communities. Little Egg Harbor, in Southern Ocean County, had the most Sandy foreclosures of any town in either Ocean or Monmouth. In the Monmouth Bayshore, 48% of homes that slipped into foreclosure in Keansburg were Sandy impacted homes, and in Union Beach, the number is even higher at 79%.
“Several of these Sandy-related foreclosure stories boil down to the same basic circumstances: a typical middle- or lower-income family learns that the costs of renting while still paying mortgage on a home they can’t live in is either immediately unaffordable or becomes so the longer they are unable to return home. Underwhelming payouts from flood insurers and slow-moving recovery programs are sinking their budgets, the families and housing advocates say. The Press’ analysis shows that many of the foreclosures are in waterfront towns with year-round, moderate-income populations.”
New Jersey posted one of the top three highest foreclosure rates in the country in August of 2015. One in every 257 houses had a foreclosure filing in Atlantic City which is a striking rate four times higher than the national average. We started to work on legislation to prevent foreclosures on Sandy impacted families. Learn more in the “Economic Security” Section.
We also began to hear more and more complaints about contractors, both state approved or not, pathway B and C, doing dangerous or negligent work, and simply walking away with homeowners funds having done little or no work. We’ve been working to pass legislation to protect survivors who have been ripped off by fraudulent contractors from having to repay that funding.
The day we launched our initial campaign, “Finish the Job,” at a press conference on the second anniversary of Superstorm Sandy in Belmar where Governor Christie was preparing to celebrate his accomplishments. As far as our communities were concerned, there wasn’t much for him to celebrate. The day we launched, these were the statistics:
- 14,880 families applied for the grant program
- 8,941 of these families were found eligible
- 2,528 people are still on the waiting list
- 2,426 were rejected – but their applications must be reviewed again
- 938 of them have withdrawn
(Source: Fair Share Housing Center)
Less than 200 families were home. (Source: Few homes completed through RREM program, Russ Zimmer Asbury Park Press 11/24/2014)
Governor Christie had 1.1 billion dollars for families in the RREM program, after two years,only $219.1 million has actually gotten out to people in need. (Source: New Jersey Recovery Dashboard as of 10/24/14)
The SHRAP Program, for temporary assistance, was no longer accepting applications and running out of money for families currently in the program. No additional assistance programs were in the works or had been announced.
Money from the program is used to help families that aren’t home with things like making both mortgage and rental payments or essential household items, like furniture or appliances. (Source: Sandy aid program can’t pay bills on time, Russ Zimmer, Asbury Park Press)
Though Sandy was a tragedy, it brought our communities together. And we’re here now, ready to stand up and speak out for South Jersey and the Shore.