In an exciting new partnership to help recovery in communities displaced by Super Storm Sandy, Brethren Disaster Ministries is collaborating with a trusted local non-profit in a project aimed at increasing the supply of safe and affordable rental housing in New Jersey. This unique project will allow Brethren Disaster Ministries to reach out to a population that is often underserved following disasters, yet whose recovery is crucial to the overall recovery and health of the community.
Super Storm Sandy made landfall on Oct. 29, 2012, devastating the mid-Atlantic coast with flooding and high winds. Among the worst affected regions, Ocean County, N.J., saw 62 percent of all the damage in the entire state, including approximately 50,000 homes and nearly 10,000 rental properties damaged or destroyed.
As is the case after most disasters, housing availability in Ocean County is extremely limited as homeowners seek temporary rentals while repairs are made to their homes, and displaced renters seek alternative housing–not knowing if or when landlords will rebuild. These unfortunate circumstances create a situation where rental prices in the region have gone up significantly, placing many low- to moderate-income families at risk of being unable to return to their communities, places of worship, work, and schools.
Brethren Disaster Ministries is partnering with O.C.E.A.N., Inc., which will provide the land to build six single family homes in Berkeley Township, N.J. Homes will be located outside of the “flood zone,” will be constructed by Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteers, and will incorporate certain mitigation techniques designed to reduce the risk of damage from future disasters. The new homes will be rented on a sliding scale to low- and moderate-income families with special needs who were affected by Super Storm Sandy.
Brethren Disaster Ministries’ guiding principles do not allow for building rental properties for private landlords–and this project, while unique, is no exception. O.C.E.A.N., Inc. will provide case management services in order to certify all income and eligibility standards and give priority to those with special needs. Following completion of the homes, property management and maintenance services will be provided by O.C.E.A.N., Inc.
Construction is expected to begin in late August on the three- and four-bedroom homes. The response in this region also is expected to expand to include more new homes and/or repairs to existing storm-damaged homes. An allocation of $40,000 from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) is providing financial support for the project.
An additional EDF allocation is continuing support for the Brethren Disaster Ministries repair and rebuild project in Binghamton, N.Y., following catastrophic flooding caused by Tropical Storm Lee in Sept. 2011. To date over 200 volunteers have given close to 15,000 hours of service to complete repairs on over 40 homes. Previous grants to this project total $30,000. Give to the Emergency Disaster Fund at www.brethren.org/edf .
— Zach Wolgemuth is associate director of Brethren Disaster Ministries.