My recent experiences working up to 14 hours a day in Union Beach at the soup kitchen has been enlightening. Some lessons learned; FEMA should be defunded, you would be better served to drive through a disaster area and toss money out the window rather than give to the Red Cross and greed lurks around every corner in a disaster area. The human toll is unimaginable to anyone who hasn't engaged the victims. The first two lessons are stories for another time, the last urgent.
Many of those I worked with serving 1,200-1,400 meals a day did relief work after Katrina, the Ohio floods and the Joplin tornadoes, the stories all end the same for the victims, displaced working poor replaced by high rise resorts and condominiums.
My question to my fellow New Jersey residents; shoulld we allow this to happen here at our shores where the current stock of low/moderate income housing was woefully short before Sandy? Do we allow our working poor and elderly to fall victim again to predatory builders and developers?
I, of course, say NO! I have begun a long row to hoe in attempting to find sponsors for three bill I belive could go a long way in protecting or at least minimizing some of the despair i have witnessed.
First, I want to see the rule changed so that some of the elderly who's homes were destroyed can place mobile homes on their lot with the understanding that they would be deed restricted so they could not be trnsfered and eventually would be removed by the estate allowing them to stay on their long time property. Current regulations prohibit this.
Second, many have been told they can't repair their homes without raising them, FEMA offers partial assisitance in the way of low interest loans...not a realistic opportunity to many. They should be allowed to repair their homes to allow them to house their family, again deed resticted so in the future a buyer would have to raise the home before a CCO would be issued.
Third, a prohabition on the merging of lots unless the buyer/developer could demonstrate that they had paid 75 percent of the pre-Sandy assessed value of their property. This would discourage the exploitation of the many elderly and low/moderate income families allowing them to walk away with perhaps some of the equity stolen by Sandy.
I have been in touch with some of our local state representatives and plan to reach out to all of them in coming weeks, your voice could go a long way in helping to muster support for these "common sense" initiatives. The potential massive loss of affordable housing in a state already suffering a critical shortfall could be devasting to all of us.
Please consider reaching out to your local leaders, your state representatives and even your congressional representatives and do it now. These victims can't wait.
-Paul J Schlaflin