Long Beach homeowners struggle to pay for house-raising

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“The [grant] program hasn’t even been established yet for Sandy,” he said. “We don’t know how that money is going to flow.”

Long Beach homes going up

Seemann added up the costs, and determined that renovating and raising his damaged home would cost about the same as knocking it down and putting a modular home in its place. He said that the whole process will cost them between $250,000 and $300,000, but the cost can vary greatly from site to site. “When I went from being a homeowner to a lot owner, that was scary,” he said.

A modular homes is built in pieces in a factory, then transported to the lot. The pieces are lifted into place, and then the finish work is done onsite. The foundation of Seemann’s new house was poured less than 30 days ago. And less than 30 days from now, Seeman, his wife and his 1-year-old baby will be living in their new home.

Builder Anthony Guillaro, of Phoenix Construction, the company that is installing the Seemanns’ home, says he thinks modular homes are the best solution for homeowners affected by the storm. He surveyed some of the houses that are currently being raised in the West End, and didn’t like what he saw.

“It’s a terrible situation,” Guillaro said. “You have a 70-year-old home that was inundated with six feet of water and raw sewage, and you’re raising it up.”

Kemins agreed, and said that many of the houses in the West End, which were built in the 1920s and ’30s, can’t be lifted. He said he thinks modular homes are a good way for homeowners to get a FEMA-compliant house.

“It’s quick. For people wanting to get back in their homes, I think it’s the way to go,” Kemins said. “But people’s decisions are driven by finances.”

Playing the waiting game

Without access to government and private funding, many people’s savings are disappearing before their eyes. “Between my wife and I, we’ve taken loans out on our retirement, we’ve stopped putting money into our kids’ college accounts,” said West End resident Mark Cozine. “It’s borrowing from Peter to pay Paul.”

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