Property owners in Brigantine, Margate and Longport whose homes are below base flood elevation and repeatedly sustain flood damage may be eligible to receive a grant that would refund up to 75 percent of the cost of raising their homes.

A list of interested homeowners is being compiled in each town, and if a joint grant application totaling $3 million to the Federal Emergency Management Agency Flood Mitigation Assistance program is approved, $1 million in funding would be available to homeowners in each town on a first-come, first-served basis.

Margate already has 25 homeowners on its list, Longport has five and Brigantine has 24.

The grant is part of FEMA’s allocation of funds for damage from Winter Storm Jonas, which flooded New Jersey shore towns in January 2016. Margate is the lead agency on the application and will be responsible for doling out funds once house-raisings are certified complete by the local building departments.

Letters have been sent to owners of repetitive-loss properties advising them of the application process, according to grant consultant James Rutala of Rutala Associates of Linwood, who is applying for the grant on behalf of the towns.

“The grant is only available for towns that are at Class 5 in the Community Rating System” Rutala said. “In essence, it is a reward for towns that are excelling at becoming more resilient.”

To be eligible, homes must repeatedly flood, be primary residences and have the greatest difference between the base flood elevation and the current elevation of the home.

“Basically, the lowest-lying homes would qualify,” Rutala said.

However, because the grant is a reimbursement, the homeowner would need to have the financial resources to fund the cost of raising the home. After the project is completed, the homeowner would be eligible for reimbursement of up to 75 percent of the cost. The grant will only cover the cost of raising the home. Any other improvements are the responsibility of the homeowner.

“We are currently putting together the grant application for all three towns, which is due to FEMA on May 15,” Rutala said. “There is already a backlog of properties on the list, but residents should still contact their municipalities because the grant is offered each year.”

Rutala said FEMA provides funding each year to elevate homes, and criteria could be revised in future offerings.

“Because it’s the National Flood Insurance Program, they want to get those homes out of harm’s way,” he said. “FEMA has targeted New Jersey as a top area where they want to elevate homes.”

Louisiana was allocated $129 million in flood mitigation funding, Texas was allocated $118 million and New Jersey was allocated $97 million, Rutala said.

“The message is that if you have a severe repetitive-loss property, there is an option,” Rutala said.

Raising homes above the required base flood elevation would reduce flood insurance claims and provide benefits to all property owners by improving the municipality’s CRS rating, which offers discounts on NFIP premiums. Property owners in Class 5 communities receive a 25 percent discount on the cost of flood insurance. Moving to a Class 4 would provide an additional 5 percent discount.

Rutala cautioned it could take months or years before homeowners see the money.

“It’s not a fast process. FEMA could take 18 months or up to two years to review and approve the properties,” he said.

Interested homeowners will have to fill out an application and provide documentation, including an estimate of the cost, photos of the home, proof of flood insurance and an elevation certificate.

Despite the long list of those interested in obtaining funds, Rutala recommended homeowners in Brigantine, Longport and Margate contact the building department to get their name on the list and start the application process.

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