Alliance Provides Housing Options for Displaced Residences
Atlanticville (Long Branch, New Jersey)
By: Nicole Antonucci
February 7, 2013
EATONTOWN -- Manufactured homes are being readied at Pine Tree Mobile Home Park in Eatontown for residents displaced by Sandy who are still in need of temporary or permanent housing.
Some 17 homes, which will be installed over the next month, will be rented for $750 to $850 a month with the option to buy, according to Donna Blaze, CEO of the Eatontown based alliance that operates the park.
"After Sandy, with the resources available, we were able to offer this as a solution since manufactured housing is a quality product and can be put in place in a timely way and we had existing vacancies in our manufactured home park," Blaze said in an interview on Feb. 1.
Blaze explained that the affordable housing units would be available for the long term.
"We are hoping to provide permanent long-term residence for those who have been permanently displaced," she said. "We do have the option to provide leases that allow people to return to their permanent housing if that is an option that is feasible for them. Some people don't know that yet at this point."
To be eligible for the manufactured mobile home units, applicants must have been displaced by Sandy, have a valid Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) case number, and earn less than 80 percent of median income for their family size.
The alliance is partnering with the Food- Bank of Monmouth and Ocean counties to stock each manufactured home with food.
While the units do not come furnished, Blaze said that the alliance would work with people to accommodate their needs.
"We don't want to make an assumption about what their condition is," she said. "However, we are prepared through our network of other organizations to ensure people have a smooth transition and have the option for permanent housing."
Blaze explained that the manufactured homes would be made available on an ongoing basis with the first three units to be ready by the end of February. Each week, another three units will be readied.
Two of the units will be constructed specifically for residents with disabilities.
"It requires very orchestrated construction. The units have to be placed on permanent foundations and we need zoning approvals and building permits," Blaze said.
"The new foundation has to be constructed for each specific unit and they have to be tied into gas service and electric service and we have to get a certificate of occupancy.
"It is not the sort of mobility that people assume it is. Although it's premanufactured, it requires [the home] to be installed permanently, which means that it has to meet building codes and those things need to be inspected."
She explained that the mobile homes made available by FEMA for 18 months are not an option for the Pine Tree Park.
"The FEMA units are not a feasible option for most of the mobile home parks throughout Monmouth and Ocean [counties]. They are 70-foot-long units, which is oversized for most of our parks," Blaze said.
"Although their intent was to make available these units to any private landlord that wanted to accept trailers, the reality is that most are not eligible to be placed in any of our pre-existing parks."
According to Christopher McKniff, a spokesman for FEMA, there are 25 families living in temporary housing units.
"We currently have 25 families living in FEMA Temporary Housing Units, of which 14 are in Monmouth County and 11 are in Ocean County," McKniff said.
"All of the commercial mobile home parks that we are leasing pads from are outside of the high-risk flood-hazard area.
"These units do require 200-amp service to run, so we are locating parks that can carry that service and where needed, we are doing the necessary electrical upgrades."
Blaze said the alliance is working with FEMA and the state to identify private landlords who have available space for additional units that would be custom ordered to requirements of the parks.
For the alliance, the current challenge is continuing to provide for the 3,000 to 5,000 clients who now are confronted with additional difficulties as a result of the storm.
"People that we have, who have been living marginally or affordably, have lost their job or second job so there is an economic impact with the number of jobs along the shoreline. ... It's disrupted transportation, kids have been displaced from school," Blaze said.
"Also what's happening is that those [displaced] who have more moderate incomes are competing in the same market place as those that require affordable housing and the rental market is squeezed to capacity."
The alliance is receiving an additional 25 to 50 calls a day for assistance. Preparing for the new housing units in a timely way has been a challenge, she said.
The Affordable Housing Alliance manages 300 rental units throughout Monmouth County from Keansburg to Asbury Park. She said these units are currently occupied by families that have been displaced.
In addition, some units were lost in the Oct 29 storm, Blaze said.
"We lost five units in the Highlands and we suffered significant damage to much of our infrastructure in Keansburg," she said.
"We have had to dedicate a lot of staff time that was originally anticipated for working on new projects to repairing our existing projects. There has been a lot of extra work on everyone's shoulders to accommodate the needs of the storm victims."
Despite the added pressure, the alliance continues to provide for those in need, with additional resources including security-deposit assistance for renters who have found rental units but cannot provide a security deposit and the first month's rent.
The alliance is also developing a Share-a- Home program that would match owners of homes that are not fully occupied with displaced residents who would rent the space for the short term.
"We continue to work with FEMA, the state, and the local county case-management systems to make people aware of the resources available," Blaze said, adding that the goal is to make sure that funding is made available to meet the overwhelming need.
"The goal is to ensure that with the rebuilding a full range of income opportunities are provided so that people who have lost their homes can return to their homes, that they aren't priced out of the market place.
"As federal funding and state funding become available, there needs to be a concerted effort to make sure that a broad range of economic incomes have an equal opportunity to live in the places that they did previously."
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