Originally published Aug. 11, 2011
By Vincent Todaro
Ocean Township — After seeing the cost for flood claims, the federal government has decided to demolish 32 Poplar Village units that have gotten awful wet.
Ocean Township will receive funding from FEMA to purchase and demolish 32 units of the senior housing complex, according to Township Administrator Andrew Brannen. However, to ensure no one gets left without a place to live, 32 new units will be constructed — away from the flood area — before the current units are demolished.
Brannen said the FEMA grant is for up to $3.3 million, and includes a provision whereby Ocean must match pay 25 percent of the grant. However, the township has found a way around that, because Poplar Village has agreed to sell the 32 units at only 75 percent of their market value. Brannen said he’s not sure on the cost for the units because appraisals have not yet been done.
The bulk of the cost will be for the unit acquisitions, he said, and the township will also have to match 25 percent of the demolition costs.
“Once we acquire the units, we will have 90 days to demolish them,” he said after Monday night’s Township Council meeting. “The challenge is so residents do not have to be relocated off-site, so we want to have new units constructed adjacent to the site prior to our purchase.”
He said funds to build the new units will come from the grant, and the township will likely partner with a developer for the construction.
Poplar Village is a senior citizen affordable housing complex with 93 units, he said. Some have one bedroom, while others are efficiency units.
Brannen said FEMA records indicate the units have a strong history of flooding over the past 15 years.
The complex is located near Poplar Brook, which is the source of the flooding during heavy rains.
“(FEMA) did a cost analysis and determined it is best to demolish [the units] to avoid future claims,” he said.
The area will become deed-restricted and maintained as open space.
He said the new units will be built at Poplar Village, but away from the flood areas. The new units will likely exceed the value of the current ones, and be “much more modern,” he said. No one from Poplar Village spoke at the meeting, and Brannen did not say if rental prices will rise as a result of the new units.
He did say the current units do not count towards the township’s affordable housing requirement, due to the date of their construction. However, that won’t be the case for the new ones.
Poplar Village will use money from sales of the existing units to “rehabilitate” existing units, Brannen said. The upgrades will include a conversion from electric to natural gas, new windows, some new lighting, and work on the bathrooms.
He said Poplar Village is governed by a board appointed by the mayor and council. Initial funding came partially from a federal grant.
As for why the government doesn’t simply address the flooding problem, Brannen said the units are too close to the brook, and certain storms cause waters to exceed the retaining wall.
“There’s no easy fix to the flooding,” he said.
He said he’s not sure why the units were initially built so close to the brook.