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An offer they can't refuse: N.J. begins buyout process for Sandy-slammed homes

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Gov. Christie in Sayerville
Gov. Christie in Sayerville - ()

State officials have made their first buyout offers to homeowners whose properties were slammed by Hurricane Sandy, with plans to start closing the sales before Labor Day.

The news came today as Gov. Chris Christie toured a storm-affected area of Middlesex County, where the state has processed or is expecting more than 200 applications for buyouts under a program overseen by a panel of state and federal agencies. The first offers came from a field of 129 homes in hard-hit Sayreville, which have long been in flood-prone areas.

In total, the state plans to use $300 million in federal funds to acquire about 1,000 homes impacted by Sandy and another 300 in the Passaic River basin that are repeatedly damaged by floods, according to a news release. The state said it's targeting clusters of homes and entire neighborhoods, with plans to raze the dwellings and maintain the land as open space that can withstand flooding events like the October storm.

Officials have stressed the need to conduct the buyouts quickly. Christie formally announced in May the state would use the federal funds for buyouts, especially in Central Jersey, though the administration had hinted at it earlier in the year.

All closings for the 129 Sayreville homes are expected to be complete within one year, Christie said today. The state also is processing another 85 applications from that borough and neighboring South River, where he made the announcement, with dozens more offers expected in the next four to six weeks.

The state will continue to submit buyout applications to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for other properties on a rolling basis over the next several months, Christie said.

Reporter Joshua Burd is @JoshBurdNJ on Twitter.

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