Manville was one of New Jersey’s hardest hit areas during Ida – it’s even been referred to as ground zero. Now, only a few weeks away from the two-year anniversary of Ida, the state is pulling the rug out from under them. On August 3, 2023, a large number of residents of Manville received an email informing them – for the first time – they no longer qualified for state grant funding to rebuild, repair, or elevate their homes. Now, their only option will be to accept a buyout – or to fund their recovery completely out of their own pockets.
This is completely contrary to what folks from this area have been told for the previous two years.
At first, folks from Manville were offered multiple options in terms of what type of aid would be available for their recovery, including funding so they could repair, mitigate, and stay in their homes. But the Department of Community Affairs, or DCA, (the part of the government in charge of Ida recovery programs), and the Department of Environmental Protection, or DEP, (the part of the government in charge of the Blue Acres Buyout Program) have just changed the rules without any input from the communities this change will affect.
The DCA and the DEP just decided that many of the homes in Manville’s floodplain are in a designated “high risk area,” and that they no longer qualify for most types of funding. Here’s exactly what they said in their email: “The State has established a policy that prohibits the deployment of federal funding in the area where your home is located for the purposes of home elevation and storm damaged repairs.”
This doesn’t answer a lot of our questions, such as, who made this decision, and did they seek out any input from the communities it would affect? And, what the hell?! What we’d like to know, but have gotten no real answer from the DCA or the DEP on, despite reaching out to them directly, is…
- Why was this decision made now, and by whom, when residents have long been given the impression they would qualify for funding to stay in their homes and get safer for the next storm?
- How will the DCA and the DEP determine a fair price for storm survivor’s homes, considering that the price of buying a new home has gone up since the storm?
- What is the timeline for offering residents an official buyout?
For Manville residents who have been trapped in limbo waiting for aid, who have already invested money into home repairs, or who don’t want to leave their homes behind, this could be another devastating consequence on top of an already traumatic disaster. Many NJOP members in Manville have had their credit tanked by the storm and its aftermath – even if they accept a buyout now, it will be difficult for them to find a new mortgage, especially due to rising home prices. And others have been trying to get a buyout from the beginning, but the process so far has been so slow-moving, complicated, and dysfunctional that we have little hope it will be any different for those who have now been backed into a corner to accept one.
It is absolutely not okay for the state, the DEP, or the DCA to completely change the rules on us after two years of waiting, hoping, applying for aid, and even more waiting.
So, you might be saying… what can I do about this?
We’re calling on Governor Murphy to exercise his authority over the DEP and DCA to reverse this decision. Join us! Take action with us at the top of this post to tell him we’re not going to let him leave storm survivors in the dust.