From the Star Ledger:
More than 3,300 homes and business in New Jersey have been repeatedly flooded and rebuilt at taxpayer expense — some as many as 20 or more times — since the 1970s, raising questions about whether the government should force more people to elevate or relocate.
Repairs to the properties — covered under the National Flood Insurance Program, which provides low-cost flood insurance to a quarter-million New Jersey property owners — cost a total of about $700 million, according to new data published this month.
About 70 percent of the New Jersey properties have been repaired five or more times, with the median payment for each flood claim topping $25,000, according to the data.
New Jersey has the third-highest number of repetitive loss properties under the federal program, behind Louisiana and Texas.
Part of the problem with the program is the way it’s set up, said Joel Scata, an attorney for Healthy People Thriving Communities program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“It places a great deal of emphasis in rebuilding in place and not mitigating flood risks,” Scata said. Alternatives include buying out the property so that property owners can move higher ground or elevating the property, he said.
In addition, unlike private insurance, there’s no limit on the amount of claims property owners can make on the same property in the same location, Scata said.
“And so they’re trapped in a cycle of flooding and rebuilding,” he said.
For example, one business in Pleasantville is located in a building that has flooded and received payments to rebuild 32 different times since the 90’s. There’s a single-family home in North Wildwood that has been flooded and rebuilt 23 times.
Many of the repetitive loss properties are found in low-lying, flood-prone communities along the Passaic River. Wayne Township is home to 429 such properties with the federal government paying a grand total of $84 million over 40 years, according to the data.
The neighboring communities of Lincoln Park, Pompton Lakes and Little Falls have a combined total of 483 repetitive loss properties.
The Jersey Shore’s also a hot spot. The zip code with the second-largest amount of repetitive loss properties is 08260, which includes the beachside communities of Wildwood, Wildwood Crest, North Wildwood and West Wildwood.
Since 2008, Wayne has secured a total of over $90 million to purchase about 400 homes in the township from FEMA through the Severe Repeated Loss and Hazard Mitigation Grant Program and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Blue Acres program.
Little Falls is nearly done with 70 home buyouts along the Passaic River funded by a combination of Blue Acres and local organization funds.
However, the process of buying homes and moving residents moved is slow, often taking years to occur after a particular disaster strikes.