By Lauren Wanko
Three hundred. That’s the estimated number of uninhabitable, abandoned homes in Brick Township. The dilapidated structures bother some residents.
“It’s frustrating. I’d rather see them out. I know it’s affecting the real estate values,” said Hubert Chapman of Brick Township.
“These homes are not safe. They’re structurally unsound, they shouldn’t be there. Anything can happen when a structure is not sound,” said Borough Administrator Joanne Bergin.
Which is why the Brick Township Council adopted the Abandoned Properties Ordinance, which gives officials additional tools in dealing with abandoned properties.
“Such as we can accelerate tax sales, get accelerated tax foreclosures, the township can go in and do work on its own on these properties and bill the owner or put a lien on the property,” said Township Attorney Kevin Starkey.
In order for Brick Township officials to classify a property as abandoned, the property must be unoccupied for at least six months and meet one of these criteria: the property must be considered uninhabitable, in need of significant rehabilitation or there’s substantial amount of unpaid taxes on the property.
Starkey says the goal is to get the homes rehabbed and back on the tax rolls, something the local government desperately needs.
“We have had a very small increase our municipal tax rate this year, which is unfortunately completely related to the continuing effects of Sandy,” Bergin said.
The Superstorm damaged about 8,500 homes in the Ocean County community. Jack Ward is in the process of rebuilding his home. He’s not frustrated or surprised by the number of abandoned properties in town. Ward says he sympathizes with the homeowners.
“My heart goes out for people that own them and are trying to work through the process and finding the funds to do it,” Ward said.
Officials insist it’s not just about aesthetics, which they agree is important in luring tourists back to the beach. Safety is the number one concern.
“There’s going to be a situation with rodents and just creating blights. There are lots of different dynamics going on where you have to be addressed and can’t be ignored,” Bergin said.
The Department of Community Affairs is in the process of launching a grant program for Sandy-impacted communities. A DCA spokesperson tells NJTV News funds from the federal aid package will be used to demolish unsafe Sandy damaged structures that pose a public health threat, remove debris and perform any additional demo related activities.
Brick Township officials say their team is still compiling a list of abandoned properties here in town. They hope to begin demoing those homes this fall.