For many of us, Superstorm Sandy may already seem like a thing of the past. But for residents of the regions affected by the storm, which some scientists say was caused, or at least worsened, by climate change, the storm’s impact remains a scar on the community.
In New Jersey alone, 346,000 homes were damaged or destroyed due to Superstorm Sandy. A year and a half later, many individuals remain displaced and struggle to find affordable housing options. In addition, homeowners suffer under the financial strain of rebuilding their home while continuing to meet their mortgage commitment.
“We are hearing from a lot of people who just have no place to go,” said Stefanie Wynne, assistant director of housing outreach services at the Eatontown-based alliance. “They have been forced to move out of the county and even the state. That disrupts the children because they have to go to a new school district.”
To address this need, New Jersey’s Affordable Housing Alliance (AHA) rolled out a new HomeShare Program in 2013, which enlists homeowners in Monmouth and Ocean counties who have available space in their homes and are willing to rent to displaced individuals.
So far, the program has had one match and Ms. Wynne is hopeful that as the program gains attention, more Home Owners will be willing to share their homes.
In addition to Homesharing, the alliance also has several other initiatives that they have put into place to help people recover. These initiatives include immediate housing with the purchase of 16 new mobile-home units, a home-goods replacement program assists homeowners who lost contents of their home due to flooding, and the Sandy Homeowner Renter Assistance Program (SHRAP). Between all these programs, the alliance has assisted 1,850 individuals impacted by Sandy.
Scientists argue that a significant reduction in carbon emissions is necessary to prevent future storms like Sandy from hitting the area. So, can Homesharing be a part of the long term solution to climate change?
Ms. Wynne points out that Homesharing allows us to share existing resources, rather than extracting new ones.
“In Homesharing, the homeseeker and homeprovider are sharing housing and utilities. This can conserve gas and electricity, both of which directly emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”
The HomeShare Program also fosters comradery, which Ms. Wynn says: “can blossom into other lifestyle changes, such as recycling, composting and neighborhood clean-ups. These are all things that are easier to implement, and more importantly stick to, when you’re working alongside another person. “
Though scientists predict storms like Sandy are becoming more frequent and intense, shared housing offers residents the opportunity to work together to recreate community in the face of global change.