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Fort Monmouth Housing for the 'New Reality'

It's not Sandy housing or temporary FEMA units. These homes will be for the next phase of the recovery process.

There has been a lot of confusing news about post-Sandy housing, said to be available at Fort Monmouth.               

To be clear: This story is about fort housing for a new wave of the recovery process - permanent housing, for what is expected to be a whole crop of people who won't want to live in a flood zone anymore or, who just won't be able to afford to anymore, if flood and homeowners' insurance rates rise in correlation with the waters of Oct. 29.

On Thursday. the board of the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA) took a first step toward selling off two large residential housing properties in Eatontown and Oceanport, in what it (and the governor) says is a response to "an acute need for housing in the Shore region" because of superstorm Sandy.

Officer's Row in Oceanport and Howard Commons in Eatontown, the two properties in question, couldn't be more dissimilar.

Officer's Row are graceful rowhouses set to join the national historic registry, which front on the expansive green parade grounds. These home are move-in ready and number about 110 units.

Howard Commons are an aged, dilapidated housing development off Pinebrook Road in Eatontown ready for demolition because it's homes don't meet current building safety codes.

As detailed by the state this week, FMERA announced its plans to issue requests for offers to purchase both parcels to commercial developers saying it would "accelerate our plans to offer existing Fort housing for redevelopment." 

But acceleration doesn't mean this housing will be available to folks who can't live in their homes now because they are gutted. It won't be available to residents to purchase for an estimated 6-12 months, for Officers Row, and 24 months in the case of Howard Commons.

The RFOTPs will be put out in the next week or so for developers. (FMERA said it already has solid interest from developers looking to get into Howard Commons.)

"This will be for people who don't want to go back to the beaches," said Charles Richman, deputy commissioner of housing for the Department of Community Affairs, the lead state agency working with FEMA. Richman is also a member of FMERA's board.

Rickman cites the expected precipitous rise in flood insurance as one of the main reasons people will be looking for new permanent homes.

Oceanport Mayor Michael Mahon, who is on the FMERA board, said this housing represents a new phase in the recovery cycle. First, he said, is emergency housing, then interim (three to 18 months out from the disaster) like FEMA units being readied in another part of the fort. Next comes the search for new permanent housing.

"People are going to make choices, to rebuild, to elevate" or he said, to move to a new place. "They have to make choices based on a new reality."

That new reality could mean moving out of the flood plain and into this housing at the fort, which did not go underwater in Sandy.

Housing advocates  at the FMERA meeting like Phil Welch of the Monmouth A Team, questioned the timeline of the properties' availability. When could displaced people hope to get into this kind of permanent housing?

Board chairman James Gorman couldn't give him an answer and instead said, "From our point of view, we read about it in the papers like you do. This is a very dynamic situation that is changing day by day, and in some cases by the hour. It could be different tomorrow."

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