SOUTH RIVER – The N.J. Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Blue Acres residential buyout program has reached a milestone with the completion of its 700th purchase, a house in South River.
Located on Henry Street, the acquisition required a short sale accommodation, a situation that arises among about 15 percent of residents in the buyout program. Closing took place on Aug. 29, according to information provided by DEP.
“South River was one of the first communities to become actively engaged in the Blue Acres program,” Blue Acres Manager Fawn Z. McGee said in the statement. “We have now successfully conducted two rounds of buyouts in South River, resulting in 106 purchases and 96 demolitions. Key to the program’s success is the implementation of sound acquisition strategies based on best management practices, as well as building of solid partnerships with local and federal officials.”
“The Blue Acres Program remains an important component of the state’s strategy to make New Jersey more resilient to storms and flooding by giving willing sellers of flood-prone properties an opportunity for a fresh start, Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe said in a statement on Sept. 24. “Blue Acres has been very successful because of the expertise and dedication of DEP staff in helping guide homeowners and communities through making some tough decisions.”
South River Mayor John Krenzel could not be reached by press time.
Addressing climate change and making the state more resilient is a key priority for the DEP, according to the statement. The Blue Acres Program uses federal and state funds to acquire and demolish clusters of residential properties in flood-prone areas and permanently preserves the land as open space for recreation and/or conservation purposes.
Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration has made addressing global warming and making the state more resilient to flooding from sea-level rise and climate change key priorities. Under Murphy’s leadership, the state rejoined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, joined a coalition of states committed to upholding the Paris Climate Accord, made offshore wind development and renewable energy key policy priorities, and placed the state on the path to a 100% clean-energy future, according to the statement.
The DEP has also been undertaking numerous efforts to build partnerships and develop policies that will better protect lives, property and infrastructure from the inevitabilities of sea-level rise and climate change. The Blue Acres program helps move people out of harm’s way and protects communities from flooding by providing open space as flood buffers. The program and its acquisition practices have earned national recognition, including awards from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to the statement.
To date, the program has secured federal funding for 1,022 properties and has made offers on 967 properties, closing on 700. More than 640 homes in 16 municipalities across nine counties statewide have been demolished, creating open space to help mitigate flooding and further protect communities, according to the statement.
To handle short sales cases, Blue Acres created a debt forgiveness team to conduct negotiations with lending institutions on behalf of those eligible for a buyout. To date, the program has successfully facilitated more than $5.7 million in debt relief with 35 separate lenders on behalf of 73 homeowners.
The Blue Acres Program is active in these municipalities: Sayreville, South River, Woodbridge, Old Bridge and East Brunswick; Manville in Somerset County; Pompton Lakes in Passaic County; Newark in Essex County; Rahway and Linden in Union County; Lawrence and Downe in Cumberland County; New Milford in Bergen County; Ocean in Monmouth County; and Pleasantville City in Atlantic County.
Homeowners interested in selling their homes or who have questions about the buyout program should call the DEP’s Blue Acres Program at 609-633-2944 or visit www.nj.gov/dep/greenacres/blue_flood_ac.html.