Floodwaters surround a stop sign in Bay Head, N.J. (Mario Tama/Getty Images )
New Jersey residents left homeless from Superstorm Sandy will be put into a lottery to receive housing that could be available as early as next week on a closed military base, Gov. Chris Christie said.
Utilities need to be hooked up for 400 to 600 units at Ft. Monmouth, a former communications base in Oceanport, N.J., and then displaced residents could start moving in, the governor said at a Tuesday news conference.
Thousands of residents across the Northeast have been displaced from the hurricane, with New Jersey and New York suffering the worst damage. Demand for temporary shelter far outstrips supply, making a lottery one of the quickest, fairest ways to give residents shelter, officials from New Jersey's Department of Community Affairs said.
The department created a task force to find temporary housing and has identified more than 5,000 other shelters among the state’s rental units, hotels, motels, and state and federal properties, community affairs spokeswoman Lisa Ryan told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday.
The task force will give Christie a report on other options by the end of the week, so many of those options won't be available for some time.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency last week began sending mobile homes to the region ahead of state requests for assistance.
More than 369,000 people in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut have registered for FEMA assistance, with more than 100,000 qualified for temporary shelter assistance. The agency has OKd more than $455 million to help.
Recovery from Hurricane Sandy is proving to be a juggling act for state and federal resources. Estimates put the storm's damage for the region at $50 billion.
On top of housing, tens of thousands of people in New Jersey and New York’s hardest-hit areas remain without basic needs like electricity and gas, drawing in both private- and public-sector workers to rebuild the infrastructure.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for FEMA to provide 100% reimbursement for the state’s recovery costs, estimating the storm caused $33 billion in damage to his state.
Meanwhile, some of New Jersey’s commercial industries are still underwater. Atlantic City’s tourism agency is pumping $6 million into a publicity campaign to bring tourists back to the Jersey Shore, and Christie said he is seeking an emergency declaration for the state’s commercial and recreational fishing industry.
Commercial fishing generated 175 million pounds of seafood last year, a $1.3-billion economic engine. Recreational fishing supports 8,500 jobs and provides $1.4 billion in annual sales by the state’s estimates.
As the costs mount, homeowners in New Jersey’s disaster zone could be hit with higher property taxes. New Jersey has a cap on property taxes but that can be lifted in cases of emergency, Christie pointed out.
"I think most people in these towns will recognize if they believe their money is being spent reasonably and responsibly to rebuild their towns they’ll be happy to do it," Christie said. "No one’s every happy about higher taxes but the fact is what annoys people more than anything else is waste. And as long as they know the money’s being spent in a way to bring their town back to life I think they’ll understand."
The governor also announced the launch of his "mobile Cabinet," a traveling band of representatives from his office and the Department of Banking and Insurance to help homeowners file insurance claims related to damage from the storm.