HACKENSACK, N.J.—Younger New Jerseyans displaced by Superstorm Sandy have a new option as they look for temporary housing — vacant units in developments usually reserved for senior citizens or early retirees.
The state Department of Community Affairs announced this week that it would accept newly issued federal guidelines for allowing so-called age-restricted housing developments to offer vacant apartments, condotown houses to storm evacuees of all ages.
Under the Housing for Older Persons Act of 1995, designated age-restricted communities must have at least 80 percent of its residents be over the age of 55 to be exempted from the federal prohibition against discriminating against families with young children.
In response to Superstorm Sandy, however, the 80 percent threshold will be waived if the available units go to storm evacuees. Similar exemptions were made in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama following Hurricane Katrina.
Age-restricted communities are not required to take in storm evacuees. Those that choose to do so will have the discretion to decide how long they will make the units available and whether they will allow any families with children they accept to also have access to on-site amenities such as swimming pools.
State officials urged operators of these developments to be flexible.
"As housing for storm-displaced residents continues to be a concern, we encourage managers and residents of 55-and-older communities to welcome people of all ages displaced by the storm," DCA Commissioner Richard E.
A spokeswoman for the department said the state does not track vacancy rates inside such developments, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency is still compiling figures for how many families are in need of temporary housing.
In North Jersey, however, those looking for affordable housing options might have a hard time finding them, said Diane Marichal, municipal housing coordinator for the borough of Paramus, which has two fully occupied senior complexes — with a waiting list of more than 150 names.
"We'd certainly be willing to take in any storm evacuees if we had vacant units," Marichal said. "But there's such a shortage of housing in general in the northeast part of the state. There are waiting lists in a lot of communities."