How other towns are handling the Neglected homes dilemma after Sandy


Almost a year after Sandy destroyed most of the shore, towns are grappling with a new phase of recovery: how to balance the complaints of residents living next to neglected properties against the plight of homeowners who lost everything and have not decided whether to rebuild.

Neglected properties have an effect not only on neighboring property values but also on the spirits of those who have to view the homes day after day.  When properties are untouched, it gives a feeling of hopelessness to its neighbors who do live there, it’s just a feeling of, “are we ever going to get out of this?”

Many owners have yet to repair their homes for many different reasons; they’re either contesting or haven’t received flood insurance reimbursements, they are waiting to receive state or federal grants or didn’t even have flood insurance or are simply too overwhelmed to do anything.
Union Beach that sustained similar damage to Highlands, receives between 30 and 40 complaints a week about damaged properties in the community of mostly year-round homes. Their code guy views the homes and determine what needs to be done. The fixes can range from routine lawn maintenance to demolition. Under normal circumstances, summonses of up to $300 a day would be issued for failing to maintain the property. Instead, the list of homes needing just lawn care is handed over to a member of the Gateway Church of Christ, a Holmdel-based church that has helped the town recover by providing supplies and volunteers.  UB is also also relying on volunteers to demolish about 102 homes that remain from a list of 300 slated to come down.
Toms River waited almost a year to send out letters to neglected home homeowners. When they sent the inspectors out, they discovered everything from overgrown lots infested with vermin to caved-in homes and structures that remain off their foundations.

Sea Bright waited till the end of summer before reaching out to homeowners. They are taking it complaint by complaint and block by block with code enforcement. Today summonses are now being issued after warnings were given.
Highlands needs to put together a game plan of how they are going to handle the similar situation and share it with residents that have come back.  Because doing nothing shouldn’t be an option.

4 comments

  1. What is the towns current plan? What are the 3 candidates saying they will do? I am planning on putting my house on the market this spring but there are 3 houses on my street that have been abandoned and I know for a fact the homeowners are never coming back. Wouldn’t it make sense to demolish all abandoned houses and let the banks sell the empty lots and let developers build new properties? That’s the only way this town will ever recover.

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    • I am a member of the Housing Committee for the ongoing Highlands Community Recovery Workshop with FEMA. The questions asked were: why was HIghlands behind compared to neighboring towns? … what’s the problem? … what can we do to make things happen?

      Code enforcement was our first demand . It was quite alarming when the steering committee (of council memebers & HBA) decided that issue was being addressed in another committee – so we had to drop it as a Housing Project. We recognized that Highlands desperately needed a dedicated grant manager to identify and secure funding for both homeowners & the town – and strongly pushed that as a project. Again the steering committee overruled and dropped grant writer from the title – but we persisted despite their resistance. Grant writer is now included in the “Plan”. At least for Housing … one small step at a time. What surprised me was that Grant Writer was not mentioned in any other committee’s project.

      A council member on our committee told us “Highlands was out of the loop with the local resources that are helping other towns.” It took only ONE email by my wife Barbara to have the Director of the Monmouth County Long Term Recovery Group attend our Housing Committee meeting. Tried reaching out to our own chairperson in Highlands for this Long Term Recovery Group asking her to work with us on providing ONE CASE per week – only to run into obstacles and roadblocks. So it’s time again for more persistence to get the ACTION Highlands needs ASAP.

      So to answer your question ….That is what am I – as a candidate – not only think should happen … but also what I am taking action right now to force some RESULTS in this town. I plan on correcting the internal roadblocks and the dis-connects now prevalent in Highlands ….one-by-one … until Highlands is made whole again. I ask every resident to get involved … Vote!!!!

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