WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
AC Workers Feel Post Sandy Housing Crunch
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Atlantic City's casinos were mostly spared during Sandy, but the workers are struggling to find affordable housing there. A rental housing shortage extends far beyond the Jersey shore.
Some 3,000 of the union members who work in the casinos remain displaced, according to Bob McDevitt, president of Unite Here Local 54.
"A lot of people in Atlantic City lost their apartments, first floor street level apartments and basement apartments ," McDevitt said. " And people lost pretty much everything that they had."
"So at home it is unstable and continues to be in a lot of cases."
Atlantic City workers are not alone. The Christie Administration estimates that more than 40,000 households remain displaced, in need of a long term housing solution.
Sandy dealt a body blow to the affordable housing rental stock in at least nine counties, according to a report by tghe New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. The state estimates more than 18,000 apartments were affected with more than half severely damaged. The report was prepared as part of the state's application for Federal Community Block development grant money.
The state is in the process of finalizing how it will spend $1.8 billion dollars in the first round of US Department of Housing and Urban Development block grants. That process requires New Jersey to document the loss of low and moderate-income households, as well as offer specifics for addressing the need.
The Christie Administration proposes it provide aid to repair repair and prepare for future storms for 20,000 homes, 5,000 apartments and 10,000 businesses, according to the DCA report. The public comment period on the plans ended this week.
In Essex, Union, Middlesex, and Bergen counties, more than half of the households upended by Sandy were low income. In Atlantic County, 63 percent of the storm impacted households were also low income, the report said.
Also, the DCA documented damage to thousands of federally-subsidized rental units and 824 public housing units in places like Atlantic City, Flanders, Hoboken, Jersey City, New Brunswick, Ocean City and Port Monmouth,
New Jersey was already in the grips of a serious housing crisis before Sandy, according to housing advocates, because the state has some of the worst unemployment and foreclosure rates in the nation.
"Before Sandy finding affordable housing was very challenging for people," says Nina Arce with the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey. "Now, after Sandy, it is almost impossible."