Property Owners Impacted by Hurricane Sandy Seek Answers at FEMA Workshop

Many concerned about need to elevate homes due to new flood maps

Kathy Hamm's home on Aldo Drive in Silverton had two and a half feet of water in it after Hurricane Sandy swept through Toms River in October. She and her husband stayed with friends for a couple of weeks and then lived in the upper level of the house for more than a month. The repairs are now complete and life is getting back to normal.

But, Hamm said when Gov. Chris Christie announced Thursday the state is adopting Advisory Base Flood Elevation maps recommended by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), her home may be subject to new home elevation rules that govern the cost of her flood insurance.

Hamm was one of hundreds who attended FEMA Informational Workshops at Toms River High School East on Saturday, Jan. 26 to find answers to their many questions.

"I am concerned about the new zoning, if I have to have my house lifted," Hamm said. "My house has been fully repaired, but I may have to have it lifted three feet — how does that work?"

Hamm said she was getting on line to speak with FEMA representatives about the Increased Cost of Compliance Program, which offers flood insurance policyholders in high-risk areas up to $30,000 toward the cost of bringing a home or business into compliance with their community's floodplain requirements.

Township Council President George Wittman said the council asked for the workshop because they wanted to give people a one-stop shop to get their questions answered.

"Now we've completed most of the cleanup and people are anxious to start to rebuild," Wittman said. "The nice thing about this is that the people who can help are all in one spot and there are enough folks here, they shouldn't have a long queue."

Wittman said the township has asked FEMA to review the new flood maps, not because they question the elevations, but because some homes may be in the wrong zones.

"If you want to rebuild now, the Governor's order says you're in the zone you're in," he said. "They can wait until the final map in August, but if you're in a hurry, you might build to a higher level than you need to. There's not much you can do about that."

According to Christie, if the new maps say a property is now in a "V" zone where there could be breaking waves, a property owner could face flood insurance premiums of up to $31,000 a year if they do not elevate the home to the required level. Premiums would be much lower if they rebuild to those levels and even lower if they rebuild to two feet higher than that.

Louie Amendola of Totowa, who has owned his home in Silverton Beach for 20 years, attended the session specifically to find out about elevations. The first floor of his house was gutted in the storm.

"We haven't gotten any word from the insurance company - no payouts," he said. "We're sitting ducks at this point."

The workshop began with brief introductions from FEMA and Small Business Administration (SBA) officials. Mark Jamison from SBA explained his agency doesn't only help businesses, but can offer disaster loan assistance to homeowners, up to $200,000 for primary residences and $40,000 for the contents of the home. He urged property owners to apply for the loans no matter what since the deadline to apply is approaching.

"Don't wait for your insurance settlement to apply — once your claim comes through you can pay down the loan," said Jamison. "An SBA loan can be a tool in your toolkit for your long-term recovery."

Following the introductions, attendees walked to the high school's gym where information tables lined the walls, addressing issues including: individual assistance, hazard mitigation grants, Advisory Base Flood Elevation, housing assistance, Flood Insurance, and Township Departments -- Administration, Building Department, Engineering, Planning/Zoning, Public Works, and Tax Assessor. 

The longest lines were at the Advisory Base Flood Elevation tables, where FEMA representatives could look up people's addresses on the computer and tell them what zone their homes fell under.  Maps were tacked to the wall, as well for people to peruse.

The one thing FEMA officials stressed was how important it is for those impacted by Sandy to register with them for assistance.

According to FEMA, the flood line touched 15,000 homes in Toms River, with more than 10,000 homes actually flooded and 250 knocked off their foundations or collapsed. More than 53,000 people in Ocean County have registered with FEMA for assistance and 7,500 have visited the Disaster Recovery Center in the Bell Crest Plaza on Fisher Boulevard in Toms River, the busiest center in the state. 

FEMA has already disbursed $347 million in Individual Assistance Program funds, said Chris McKniff, FEMA spokesman. He said there has been major interest in the Advisory Base Flood Elevation tables.

"We're trying to educate people as to what it means to them in the rebuilding process and the ramifications for flood insurance down the road," he said.  "With a workshop like this, it's more personalized. They can sit down and talk about their specific case."

"We're here to help you," said William McDonald, FEMA Region II Deputy Director of Mitigation. "We will be here as long as we need to to get communities back stronger."

justamom January 28, 2013 at 10:28 PM
I live in Manchester, and wasn't affected by this horror. My heart goes out to all of you. I have a question. It seems to me that I've read story after story about people paying Insurance premiums for years, to find out now that most of their stuff isn't covered for one lie or another. I also agree that no one else had to suddenly meet these new "lift your house" contracts either. Here is what I would do. I wouldn't lift my home, I'd just repair it. and If I flooded out again? I'd walk away from it. NJ seems He*l bent on driving people out of this state. It's lousy advice, but it seems all you guys have is lousy choices.
Mary Ann January 28, 2013 at 10:40 PM
Laura, How did you get a payout from Selective Insurance - obviously a while ago if your repairs are done as you say? We have Selective Insurance as well and have not heard anything. We are living on our second floor and waiting to rebuild. I don't understand why it's taking so long? Why some people have received their insurance money and others have to wait so much longer. Forget the fact that people without insurance were given FEMA money and we just keep waiting.
candy cane January 28, 2013 at 10:44 PM
Let's all not forget that u can not shop around for a better insurance company due to the claims you made, even if ur deductible was higher than damage and u paid for repairs yourselfthat and collected nothing. The claims are on record and NO other insurance company will cover you except the 1 you are already insured with. So i have to relocate due to my company transferring positions to another state and I am purchasing the home. Due to me being an occupant of the home my husband solely owns and has insurance claims I CAN NOT get insurance even with our present insurance companny!!!!! Who do I thank for this piece of news? FEMA, SBA, OUR GOVERNOR, OUR PRESIDENT? Why am i being punished for being a victim of a storm who doesn't even own a home?
Gino January 28, 2013 at 11:36 PM
So, I live in a "V" zone and have been informed that my house has to be elevated 6 feet. If that was an option the wait is already over a year. I also have mold in between my vinyl siding and my house. Super expensive to remidate. I was basically advised that it would be more cost effective to tear the house down and start over. I am trying to wade through the confusing mess of FEMA, SBA, ICC, and contractors, not to metnion my mortgage company. I understand that New York is considering buying out flood victims who can't afford to rebuild. Does anyone know if New Jersey is considering the same thing? I don't want to walk away from the house as that will destroy my credit for the rest of my life, but it doesn't look like I'm going to be able to afford to comply with the new FEMA requirements. If the state wants to buy me out, they can have it.
Chief Wahoo January 28, 2013 at 11:40 PM
if you owe more than the house is worth, no one is giving you anything......So its time you and many others , put on your big boy pants and learn to stand up and fight for yourselves
candy cane January 29, 2013 at 12:04 AM
Chief yahoo who are we suppose to stand up and fight for ourselves against? Its all wrapped up and twisted between government entities that just keep passing the buck but we as individuals must hurry up to comply then wait for answers because they don't have them at this time
Sammy January 29, 2013 at 12:14 AM
Talk to your attorney for advice. It can take four years for the bank to forclose and that was before this mess here in NJ,. My bank in no uncertain terms wants me to fix my home and stay. It seems they do not want me to stop paying and live here for four years for free and then hand them the this home still a mess . What a country!
Av January 29, 2013 at 12:22 AM
Wow three shots warmed me up driving with cold beer man it's good, hold on dam can't find my milk jug!! I gott get out of the car to pee dam light beer
Gino January 29, 2013 at 12:41 AM
Actually Chief, before the storm I owed much less than my house was worth, which is where you want to be. Unfortunately, the storm has changed all that since I doubt I could get very much for it at all right now. My house is a total loss and needs to be demolished. I have worked hard to achieve a perfect credit rating and I don't want a godmaned storm to destroy a lifetime's worth of sweat. All I'm hearing is that this recontruction and compliance with the FEMA elevation requirements is going to cost me much more than I was paying and much more than I would have ever wanted to pay if I decided to relocate on my own. So, if the state is offering to buy out people who can't afford to rebuild, I want to know more about it. I'd like to think all that Springsteen and Bon Jovi concert money will go to preventing middle class people like me from going bankrupt trying to do the right thing. Any by the way, I have had my "big boy" pants on my whole life, you condescending jackass.
Green Island resident January 29, 2013 at 12:57 AM
Did you call and ask about this? My understanding is that the town is going to allow the height to start at the flood elevation. So if your base flood elevation is 10 feet, and your house is at the maximum height then you can go to 45 feet.
Green Island resident January 29, 2013 at 12:59 AM
Grandfathering does not exist thanks to Congress who passed a new bill that took this away. If your house has damage less than 50% you do not have to elevate it.
jerseyswamps January 29, 2013 at 01:04 AM
Gino, Banks and towns are are counting on you and others to "do the right thing" and honor your commitment to pay your mortgage, taxes and insurance. Perhaps you should have a different attitude. Don't let it become a personal shortcoming if you walk away. Look at it as a business decision. If the bank and town goes after you It's just business. A good CEO will stop trying to sell a lemon of a car and cut their losses. If it doesn't make sense to play the cards the bank and FEMA and town deals you then fold. Nothing personal.
TheGreatHoax January 29, 2013 at 03:36 AM
With guys like this in govt know wonder we're in trouble (where's the story patch?) Emails show FBI investigating Sen. Bob Menendez for sleeping with underage Dominican prostitutes Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2013/01/25/emails-show-fbi-investigating-sen-bob-menendez-for-sleeping-with-underage-dominican-prostitutes/#ixzz2J0oNhkcj
jerseyswamps January 29, 2013 at 09:23 AM
I just received a notice from FEMA that new flood elevation maps are now available for NY. Don't mean to wish them bad luck but if they are as "updated" as ours then maybe there will be some coverage from NY stations.
Floodgate January 29, 2013 at 10:45 AM
Fema isnt going to have any friends left....
abc January 29, 2013 at 02:52 PM
Hey George, ever heard of Google?
Suzanne Schmitz January 29, 2013 at 05:18 PM
If your house is substantially damaged and FEMA says you are in a zone that requires you to elevate, will you be able to get permits to repair the house if you do not comply.
Cynthia E Miller January 29, 2013 at 09:59 PM
With these new flood maps and elevation of your homes especially for those of you who's repairs have been completed and besides the 30,000.00 FEMA will give (that's if you qualify), where the heck do you think we are going to get the rest of the money. they are going to break us money wise. people don't have the money to do this. are they nuts. will be in the poor house. I can tell you right now, can't afford it. Just because you have a home down the shore area "does not mean you are rich". no one and I mean no one is going to be able to afford this. typical. can't do it. and wont. sorry. unless you pay for the whole thing, not happening. fine me. give it your best shot. i will and others will fight this. I have alot more to say about this, but don't want to spend the rest of my life in "prison"...
mjmjr January 29, 2013 at 10:13 PM
Rosemary Ackerman January 30, 2013 at 03:25 AM
Join the group saveourcommunity2013@gmail.com if you are looking for strength in numbers. There are hundreds of followers and we are making great progress towards getting responses from our elected officials, (Lauterberg, Menendez, etc.)
Tonysoprano_62 January 30, 2013 at 03:36 AM
I'm hearing but can't confirm some towns are not allowing people to move houses. For example if you live on a bay or lagoon and you are now in a V zone and need pilings you can't just move your house into the road or on a "canal" if there is no room on your property. Which means a tear down is necessary. Are you kidding me?
Rosemary Ackerman January 30, 2013 at 04:01 AM
The issue we need the most help from Governor Christie, Menendez and Lautenberg on, is through the Administration and not Legislative. Christie would probably have to bring in our Senators and Congressman. The miss designation of most of Brick and a significant amount of other waterfront communities (including Toms River as a "V" zone from "A" will unnecessarily cause tremendous financial harm to residents. Real Estate taking a backward slide, 10's of 1,000's of middle class NJ, banks will see crisis,and families either homeless or living in deplorable unsafe conditions caused simply by being classified in "V" zones (where 3 foot waves do not occur). By being in a "V" zone, insurance rates will sky rocket and raising homes to safe levels will become non affordable to middle income households even with the grants available from the $60 billion bill. Many more will be walking away! Everyone effected by this storm and all taxpayers should call the numbers below and give an urgent shout out for help. If not, we will not have a community left. Gov. Christie, 609-292-6000, fax 609-777 2922, email via website http://nj.gov/governor/ (click on "Contact" and "Housing") US Sen. Menendez, 202-224-4744, http://menendez.senate.gov/contact/ US Sen.r Lautenberg, 202-224-3224, http://lautenberg.senate.gov/
Green Island resident January 30, 2013 at 04:04 AM
You can consider helical piles and masonry piers which will allow you to lift your house build the foundation and piers and set the house back down on the masonry piers. Expensive but doable.
Stephanie Sevastakis February 01, 2013 at 03:37 AM
@Martin, it is costly but not impossible to raise a house on a slab, you just can't finish the interior before you raise the house. The future of this area is definitely in jeopardy and FEMA has imposed unreasonable regulations with the backing of the Federal Government but nothing is impossible. We need to do our best to rebuild, I am on a slab like you and it has really presented a lot of challenges but the house raiser said they can do it.
Stephanie Sevastakis February 01, 2013 at 04:05 AM
@Rosemary, Part of our neighborhood is a V zone and part is an A zone. Many of us have never been flooded at all and some of the lower elevation homes were flooded, slightly in 1992. Never, including Sandy did we have 3 foot wave action. The homes in the V zone in our neighborhood are clearly in the wrong designation. I understand why the Governor adopted the Maps, "as is" because we needed to start getting the funds from the recently passed bill ASAP to recover, but and it's a huge but, the banks need to get more proactive in demanding that FEMA revisit these ridiculous Zone designations because the financial devastation that they will feel as people walk away from their homes will put them out of business. They are not in the Home Renovation business, and will never see enough insurance money to pay for repairs and then resell the home that already has a mortgage on it. People will not be buying homes in flood zones for at least a few years due to fear of huge insurance premiums, so the banks will not be able to unload these homes whether rebuilt or not. Basically what I am saying is that, in my opinion, our Governor did what he thought was in the best interest of the state as a whole but our banks need to step up fast and fight together against FEMA's unrealistic regulations or they stand to lose just as much as we do when they close up and their employees find themselves unemployed and unable to pay their own mortgages.
Gino February 02, 2013 at 02:49 PM
The builder I'm working with tells me that there a two legit companies that elevate houses in the area and they're not even taking calls right now as they are absolutely slammed with requests. He tells me the list is backed up over a year to get your house elevated to meet the new FEMA requirements. If true, this will force tears downs as is happening to me (I also have a mold issue under my siding). The new construction opens up a whole different can of worms...new construction loans, higher taxes due to "improvements" made, so called soft costs for surveyors, lawyers, inspectors, plans and drawings, permits, to the tune of $20-30 thousand. The hurricane was only the beginning of this disaster. I won't be moving back to my address for a year or more. FEMA is arealdy giving me crap about additional housing assistance. I need a damned drink.
Martin February 02, 2013 at 03:05 PM
Av, go to an AA meeting. Your repetitve chlldish remarks add nothing to the heart-felt conversation between people dealing with "the disaster after the disaster."
HJS February 02, 2013 at 03:15 PM
Gino Not so, if you need your house lifted, there are more then two, you need a new builder
David Construction LBI House Raising February 03, 2013 at 02:15 AM
Gino, I believe HJS is telling you the truth. There are several house raising companies in Ocean county and surrounding areas; I know, because we are a local house raising company. We have had to limit our service area to LBI and Manahawkin for now, because we are a construction company, too, and of course we are busy. We are getting approximately 40 calls/emails, and over 200 hits on our website a day. However, we are still taking calls, giving estimates, booking house raises, and it's not for a year from now. Some of the people we have talked to have told us that their builders are saying that raising their home is $100K, or that you can't get anyone for two years...etc. I think some of these contractors are looking to get some new construction contracts under their tool belt. If you google "house raisers NJ," you will find plenty. Keep in mind, that house raisers typically work for contractors as a sub-contractor. The contractor handles the majority of the project. House raisers only raise/lower, there is ALOT more to the job than that. You will need a reputable contractor, who is familiar with the process, to handle your house raising project. Best to you.
DIY February 03, 2013 at 03:02 PM
This is a most interesting discussion thread. I'm sitting on a slab which has never been flooded since built until Sandy. Now we are being moved from an AE7 to a V10 flood zone. Still on the fence more than ever about how to proceed. I have a mortgage and a per-FIRM rate at the moment, and if what you are all saying is true, the future does not look too promising as far as rates are concerned. Not sure whether to repair and wait, raise it on helical piers, or just knock it down and re-build as time and money permit. Currently awaiting an engineer's conceptual drawing and plan to raise it. Without this, it's hard to get some real quotes on getting the the job done. I do worry that raising the home is just one piece to satisfy compliance and the costs will become unmanageable. I also hear that TR will be re-assessing our taxes. It seems that the recent tax re-assessment which raised my taxes 60% a couple years ago is now inconvenient when trying to buy people out who are not permitted to re-build. This is all very complicated. My gut is telling me slow down. As I understand it, your insurance rates cannot be increased more than 25% per year. It's my 2nd home, 2 kids in college and 2 to go. Can't reach to high right now. God help us all and the shore community.


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