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FEMA: Housing Prospects for Sandy Victims Daunting, Not Dire

Though a recent state report paints a bleak picture, FEMA officials say the housing situation for residents impacted by Hurricane Sandy isn't as severe.

The numbers are dramatic. In theory.

According to a report from the state's Disaster Housing Task Force, a looming housing shortfall exists for thousands of residents impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

Potentially, of course.

What the data collected in the report — comprised of current Hurricane Sandy data and data culled from historical disasters — doesn't factor in, however, is experience, Federal Emergency Management Agency officials said. And though furture housing does remain an unknown for many residents, especially in Sandy-ravaged areas of Monmouth and Ocean counties, FEMA has yet to experience the presaged crush.

"We have not noticed big difficulties in (meeting) housing requirements," Deputy Federal Coordinating Officer Bill Vogel said during a recent conference call. "The state-led housing taskforce has done a great job in making sure they've got their needs identified.

"We have not run into difficulty."

The report, released Thursday, estimates that as many as 25,000 households may need assistance locating temporary housing solutions. Of that total, FEMA estimates that between 10,000 and 15,000 won't actually pursue assistance — again, based on historic data — leaving about 12,500 households in need of disaster-related housing assistance.

The complete 40-page report can be viewed by clicking on the PDF at right.

In the more than a month since Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey directly, a rental stock of approximately 6,000 units has been identified. If that number is accurate and if the households in need of assistance is accurate then, according to the report, 6,500 households would be unable to immediately locate a place to live.

The report speculates a worst-case scenario, one Donna Weise, FEMA's housing grid supervisor, said doesn't account for what her organization has seen thus far in Sandy.

For one, she said, a significant portion of the people belonging to that estimated 6,500 households total are staying with friends and family while their homes are repaired or rebuilt. Though she was unable to provide an actual estimate of how many families were going that route instead of utilizing FEMA housing aid, Weise said the percentage is much higher than that of affected households along the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina.

Data from that disaster was used to help generate figures the Disaster Housing Task Force's report.

Weise added that while thousands have applied for aid, many will also choose to remain in homes where damage from Sandy was minor, or at least tolerable for the time being.

Despite FEMA officials feeling of bit optimism when it comes to housing prospects for Sandy victims, steps are being taken to provide Direct Housing for those who need it.

Direct housing is used to provide a longer term solution than FEMA's transitional sheltering assistance, which includes stays in hotels or motels,and its temporary housing assistance phase, which provides rental assistance for those displaced from their apartments or homes.

In Monmouth County, FEMA is working with the U.S. Department of Defense to provide housing at Fort Monmouth, though it only plans on opening one building to residents at this time. The building in question includes 45 units, 15 three bedroom units and the rest one-bedroom, and should be move in ready in a couple of weeks, Vogel said.

Currently, about 155 applicants from Monmouth and Ocean qualify for Direct Housing at the Fort and Vogel did not rule out the possibility of opening more buildings to house residents. Weise, however, expressed some concern over relocating Ocean County residents to Monmouth County because of the distance. Other, more local direct housing programs are being pursued in Ocean County.

One solution is temporary trailer parks, which could be established in towns throughout the area.

In all, Weise said more than 240,000 New Jersey residents have applied for FEMA aid with roughly $250 million being distributed to an estimated 47,000 applicants so far. The remaining applications have been denied, withdrawn, or are pending, she said.

Weise encouraged residents to update their living status with FEMA as things progress. Some who registered for aid may no longer need it and others who were denied are welcome to reapply should they think their situation merits further review, she said.

Efforts are also being undertaken by other housing organizations to help determine the housing need and find a solution. Groups like the NeighborWorks America and Mississippi-based housing group Hope have toured towns impacted by Sandy and are working with local officials to develop housing plans.

Shannon K. Winning December 07, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Ed, what is FEMA saying about how people will manage long term stays with friends and family? The folks I talked to at the Affordable Housing Alliance, which serves Mon and Ocean, said they expect to see problems as displaced people need to stay with those friends and family for an extended period. For those homes hit hardest, some residents are looking at being out six months to a year. Does FEMA account for a second wave of need?
Adrienne Faber December 07, 2012 at 04:46 PM
AZJ Real Estate Services in NJ has many apartments in Matawan, NJ, some ready to move in right now and some needing renovations that can be done in approx. a week. Our website is up and running www.sandy-recovery.com, 732-339-3500 or 888-966-0890. Please call us so we can place victims of Sandy. Adrienne
Linda Gillespie December 07, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Adrienne, are the services on the website free? Volunteer organization?
Property Taxed 2 Death December 08, 2012 at 01:45 PM
I had no damage & only lost power a few days so have no complaints for myself but my observations are negative toward our government for their lack of action to those suffering. Sandy created lots of jobs, many going to people from other states as is already happening, but even still there is no way a majority of homes can be rebuilt in a year. Too many in need & too few resources. Material prices will go way up thanks to wall streeters who will again profit by the misery of others. Our government is supposed to exist to protect & serve the citizens, but isn't doing a good job. We've always responded faster to disasters in other countries than to those suffering here and that is pathetic. Politicians show up at disaster sites for photo ops and then disappear to do nothing with the sole exception of Christy, however he's not doing enough either. He and every elected official should focus 70% of his time on this! The same for Obama & our 2 self serving US Senators. Going on a short walk at a community that was ravaged just to get their mugs in the press is not what is needed. I've been to Union Beach, Brick and Seaside. It looks worse than a bombed out war zone. Volunteers are doing an excellent job, but far more professionals need to be on site helping people. We pay high taxes for the government to provide services and to serve the public when disaster strikes. It struck. The government needs to get their butts in gear and help the people here immediately!
SJ Evans December 08, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Let's not forget how much the price of rentals themselves have gone up thanks to landlords wanting their piece of the FEMA pie. Affordability is a major issue.....
Shannon K. Winning December 08, 2012 at 07:45 PM
SJ have you personally experienced this? What kind of rates are you seeing?
Stacy M December 08, 2012 at 09:42 PM
Where is all the money that was raised?? OH WAIT.... That was for the boardwalks! Having boardwalks is so much more important then people having HOMES!!! OH the Red Cross has it.... Hmmmmmm! That's a lot of money they received!
KC December 08, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Oh gosh I so agree with you. It took eleven days for the Red Cross to bring a hot meal to people in our development. Better late than never, but at that juncture people just could not believe that NO ONE came to their assistance. With no phones or automobiles when the Red Cross did come to the Windward Beach area (closed down deli site) - people who could have used the hot meal did NOT know they were even there! Tons of debris were removed and yet debris put out at the same time still remains. It is my understanding that FEMA has ordered a halt to the town pick it up. Can anyone verify this? If it is so, exactly how long are we to continue to look at this mold and bacteria ridden former contents of homes? There has been no strong town, state or federal presence in the last two weeks. God only knows the health implications of all this stuff just sitting about. For the fifth time I will state: WE NEED THE DEBRIS IN NORTHERN CEDARCROFT PICKED UP AND THE STREETS NEED A SWEEPER AS THERE IS BROKEN GLASS ALL ABOUT. I have swept my own area and that of some of my neighbors but I cannot do the entire development.
KC December 08, 2012 at 10:20 PM
Re: Red Cross to whom my family has always donated. Scroll up. Aid not given in a timely fashion can be tantamount to no aid at all.
s c canino December 08, 2012 at 10:51 PM
The rental market in the greater Toms River area was tight before the storm , its now impossible.!! There Is NO affordable housing in the area. I will not stay to rent an apartment for 1400 a month, with only a part - time job. Retail and tourism won't cut it. Goodby Ocean Co.
Property Taxed 2 Death December 09, 2012 at 05:59 AM
KC I've heard the same complaints about the Red Cross and of difficulty finding FEMA & other sites that had donated goods to give out like water, clothing, blankets & food. I suggest you get as many of the neighbors, family, & people you know anywhere to call BOTH US Senators and call Chris Christy's office and demand he get help there NOW! Remember the more calls they get, the more interest they'll have to help you. They spent a few hours being seen at different areas hit hard but that was only for Photo Ops to fake that they care. Office of the Governor PO Box 001 Trenton, NJ 08625 609-292-6000 SENATOR MENENDEZ HAS 3 OFFICES LISTED BELOW, CALL THEM ALL!!!!! 528 Senate Hart Office Building Washington, D.C. 20510 202.224.4744 208 White Horse Pike, Suite 18 Barrington, New Jersey 08007 856.757.5353 856.546.1526 (fax) One Gateway Center, Suite 1100 Newark, New Jersey 07102 973.645.3030 973.645.0502 (fax) Senator FRANK Lautenberg CALL ALL 3 NUMBERS TO COMPLAIN If you really want results, also send a letter to all 3 offices also AND write letters to the Editor for all newspapers you know of complaining about them not helping but were only interested in their pics being on the news Newark Phone: (973) 639-8700 Toll Free: (888) 398-1642 Fax: (973) 639-8723 Camden Phone: (856) 338-8922 Fax: (856) 338-8936 Washington, DC Phone: (202) 224-3224 TTY: (202) 224-2087 Fax: (202) 228-4054 good luck to you John
Michelle Robey December 10, 2012 at 03:11 PM
My husband and I have a large 4 bedroom house that has a one bedroom apartment. Since it is only the two of us, we are willing to move in to the apartment so a Sandy family can have our house. The problem is we dont who to contact to get info on how to do this....suggestions?
Shannon K. Winning December 10, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Michelle Robey, email me and I will give you some contacts: sheiswinning@gmail.com
KRaz December 11, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Good question ... where does all that money go that was raised for Hurricane victims? We saw red cross once during our 2/3 week clean up in Beach Haven West.
steve December 13, 2012 at 05:33 PM
how can or who does someone contact about getting temp. housing sent to people in need? www.nwmodularstructures.com is our web

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