Billions spent to build NJ homes in places at high risk for floods
The destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 hasn't deterred many folks from planting their lives along New Jersey's coast.
The Garden State leads the way since 2009 for the number of new homes built in areas at risk of chronic future flooding, according to a report from Climate Central and Zillow.
For every three New Jersey homes built in a safe area, the report finds, another three went up in flood-risk zones.
Nearly 2,700 new homes erected in a risk zone since 2009 are worth some $2.6 billion, the report said.
Ocean County is one of 23 counties nationwide where more than 100 at-risk homes were built during that time period. Ocean County's tally was actually closer to 1,300.
"Part of what we're seeing in New Jersey is the recovery of the houses that were damaged in Sandy," said Tom Herrington, associate director of the Urban Coast Institute at Monmouth University. "And in many cases these homes are being built bigger and better."
The state's premier grant program post-Sandy was meant to help individuals rebuild, rather than move, so while the report may suggest Garden State residents are making unintelligent choices, they're really just doing what they can with the funds they've been awarded, Herrington said.
New Jersey has very few coast-adjacent lots still available for development. Part of the new-home count may also include folks who purchase a summer home or second home at the shore, and rebuild them to their liking, Herrington said.
"We're not really seeing sprawl like we experienced in the 40s and 50s; we're seeing redevelopment of existing properties more than anything," he said.
The bigger concern, he said, is whether the land where these rebuilt homes are standing will still be above water decades from now.
"With sea level rise and land subsidence that's occurring in New Jersey, we know that the water's getting closer to our streets every year," Herrington said.
Of the 10 communities with the highest number of new homes erected in a risk zone since 2009, five can be found in New Jersey — Ocean City (308), Beach Haven West (237), North Beach Haven (175), Avalon (130), and Dover Beaches North (106).