Taxpayers foot the bill for chronically flooded NJ homes
The recent nor’easter storms were a reminder how violent the weather can be in New Jersey, even outside the typical hurricane season. Beach erosion was moderate to severe and sink holes even opened up on some beaches. Moderate to minor flooding along the coast and back bays was also an issue.
If you think flooding is becoming more common, you are correct. And it’s not just from coastal storms. New Jersey saw more than 20 days last year with high-tide flooding, also called nuisance flooding. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says nuisance flooding is happening twice as frequently as it did just 30 years ago, according to a report by NJ Environment News.
An investigation from the Houston Chronicle found New Jersey has the third-highest number of homes that are repeatedly flooded (NJ.com has a good breakdown of the Garden State-specific impacts here). Some have been rebuilt more than 20 times since the 1970s. Seventy percent of the 3,300 chronically flooded properties have been rebuilt or repaired at least five times, with an average cost of $25,000 per instance, the reports say. The total cost of the repeat rebuilds is more than $700 million dollars of taxpayer money, according to the reports.
This increased flooding frequency is driving repair costs higher, and increasing the demand for flood insurance, which is only available through the federal government. A new analysis by Lending Tree shows New Jersey has among the highest levels of property damage due to flooding in the nation. A new flood risk map from the Federal Emergency Management Agency has placed more New Jersey homes into flood risk zones, further increasing the demand for flood insurance. Census data shows 3.2 million occupied homes in New Jersey. Of those, the Lending Tree analysis shows 352,000 are at risk of coastal flooding —that's 1 in 10 occupied homes. Those figures don’t take into account the hundreds of homes in flooding danger along inland rivers, streams, ponds, and lakes. Its estimated by 2050, 14% of all occupied homes in New Jersey will be in danger of flooding.
This century long tug-of-war between man and mother nature has led to the realization more homes subject to repeat flooding should simply not be rebuilt. It has prompted the state to push for more buyouts of chronically flooded properties through the Blue Acres plan. Recently, New Jersey purchased its 700th home, WHYY reports. But most of these are inland homes or along coastal waterways and back bays. The state has made offers to buy homes directly along the Atlantic coastline, but not a single home owner has agreed to sell. The real estate is too valuable.
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