Increase in new home permits in parts of New Jersey could be sign that Superstorm Sandy grant money for rebuilding is being distributed; new residential building permits in Ocean County, New Jersey, up 138.8% year-over-year in first three months of 2014

NEPTUNE, New Jersey , May 14, 2014 () – A rush of new home permits may be a sign that Sandy grant money for rebuilding is starting to get to the people who need it.

Data released by the U.S. Census Bureau earlier this month shows that new home construction in Ocean County has lapped last year's pace through the first three months of the year. There have been 566 residential buildings -- single- and multifamily homes -- permitted from January to March, compared to 237 during the same period in 2013. In Monmouth County, it's running about 20 percent ahead of 2013's clip as of March.

Gabe Bravo, of Point Pleasant Beach's Bravo Builders, finds himself driving from job site to job site and meeting to meeting these days. He said his sharp uptick in business is tied to the flow of disaster aid to eligible homeowners through the Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) program.

"I'll be submitting three job permits tomorrow and I still have 13 more on desk that are on (the final step)," Bravo said last week. "It's 100 percent, unequivocally related to Sandy and the RREM money finally coming out."

To see more coverage on the recovery, go to's superstorm Sandy page.

Toms River is the heart of this surge in home building in Ocean County. From January through March, the township approved 129 permits for an estimated $19.4 million in new home construction, or four to five times a typical first quarter for them, according to the Census data.

"After the March report, we got a call from somebody in the U.S. Census Bureau who thought we had made a mistake," said Ken Anderson, construction official for the township.

They hadn't. In fact, Anderson said his office has been buzzing with activity since the latter half of 2013, when the Census data shows a total of 410 buildings were authorized.

Anderson too ascribes the jump in permits to recovery grants, specifically that "the RREM is starting to cut loose."

Residential development in Toms River is building on the momentum that began last year when the value of permitted construction, including additions and alterations, was estimated at $151.6 million, or the seventh highest of any municipality in the state, according to a construction report by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.

"This year is probably going to double what we did last year, and that was pretty busy too," Anderson said.

The DCA reports that $13 billion in home construction was planned last year, which was a sharp departure from the lull in construction after Sandy. November 2012 was one of the slowest months for home building in recent history, according to the DCA, though much of the demand for new homes now comes from the loss of housing caused by the hurricane.

Demolitions culled the housing stock by 3,347 units last year in Ocean County, more than the entire state posted in 2012. About three out of every homes demolished in 2013 were in Ocean or Monmouth counties, according to state data obtained by the Press.

Pr1ma Corporation has a 56-home development underway off Hickory Street and Route 9 in Toms River. Though his company is performing its share of renovation and elevation work on Sandy-struck properties, president Arvo Prima said the Hickory Pines development is more of a reflection of demand for mid-level housing -- growing families looking for more space or empty-nesters wanting to scale down -- than it is a response to what the hurricane did to supply.

Regardless, he said, it's a booming time for real estate.

"This spring is, I can tell you personally, better than the last three springs I've gone through," he said. "There's more confidence. I think people are tired of waiting and I think they trust values again."


Russ Zimmer: 732-557-5748,


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