New Jersey's Blue Acres program, which allows the state to buy properties in flood-prone areas, is expanding.

During a visit to Keansburg on Monday, Gov. Chris Christie announced an additional $75 million in federal funding for Blue Acres has been secured. Funding for the buyouts comes from FEMA, HUD and state programs.

Christie said the funding now amounts to $300 million since Sandy.

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy five years ago, the Blue Acres program was expanded, providing those adversely affected by the storm in flood-prone areas opportunities to sell their homes at pre-storm values and get a fresh start somewhere else, Christie recalled during the visit.

“It’s being expanded even more because the need to help homeowners escape the threat of repeated flooding, and the personal and financial devastation that causes still exists in many communities,” he said.

He pointed out in many instances “these families lived with worry every time it rained, and the need to help them transition to a more solid future was part of the opportunity that Sandy presented to us.”

The governor said Blue Acres is helping people not just in coastal areas impacted by Sandy, but those in flood-prone areas across the state in 14 different municipalities — 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 in Monmouth County.

“Blue Acres has now made more than 900 buyout offers to homeowners to buy repetitively flooded homes (and) 475 of those homes have already been purchased and demolished,” he said.

The undeveloped areas that are left as open space when homes are knocked down help to mitigate flooding to further protect those homes that remain.

Christie said the additional $75 million “will help Blue Acres acquire and remove hundreds more at-risk homes.”

The governor stressed Blue Acres is a voluntary program.

He said after an appraisal of the house, an effort is made to agree on a price, and if the state and the homeowner do agree, he house is sold and then knocked down.

Christie said more remains to be done give years after Sandy, but he pointed out a new report by Moody’s Investors Service finds Atlantic, Ocean and Monmouth Counties, the counties most affected by the Superstorm, “have fully recovered and are prepared for the next major coastal storm of a similar strength due to infrastructure improvement, healthy economies, and strong finances.”

"The entire Jersey Shore’s recovery was largely due to quick and robust rebuilding efforts following Sandy," the report said. This includes new building construction and retrofitting existing buildings to meet stronger building codes. These rebuilding improvements and adjustments have considerable credit impact, because they will help prevent damage to property and prevent tax appeals, the report said.

In addition, it noted residential housing prices and values in these counties "have proved resilient to the storm and the rebuilding helped support home values."

That also helped continue the Jersey Shore’s "draw as an in-state and out-of-state tourist destination," the report said.

Christie stressed this doesn’t mean every family is back in its home, but he said progress has been significant, and recovery efforts in New Jersey after Sandy have been quicker and more complete than in Louisiana and Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina.

Homeowners interested in selling their homes or who have questions about the buyout program can call the DEP’s Blue Acres Program at 609-984-0500.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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