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How Homeowners on the Jersey Shore Are Making Their Houses Hurricane-Ready

Union Beach, New Jersey Date: October 2014. Photograph by Ira Wagner.

Three years ago, Hurricane Sandy landed on the Eastern Seaboard, sending seawaters surging, destroying homes and businesses, and leaving behind 8.7 million cubic yards of debris on the coast of New Jersey alone—an event more disfiguring to the Jersey Shore than anything contrived by Snooki and her Seaside Heights crew. In the storm’s aftermath, 70,787 residents of New Jersey filed flood-insurance claims, and the National Flood Insurance Program paid out $3.5 billion in claims.

In December 2012, FEMA issued new recommendations for homeowners along the New Jersey shore: Elevate flood-prone homes or face astronomic insurance premiums. Homes that don’t meet FEMA’s standards can now cost $31,000 a year to insure. That figure drops to $7,000 when homeowners comply with the new regulations, and even further, to $3,500, if the house is elevated two feet higher than required. (In Monmouth County, where this house is located, the average home will need to be raised between eight and nine feet.) House-raising itself isn’t cheap—it can cost approximately $45,000 to $50,000—but the long-term advantages are cut-and-dried.

Ira Wagner, who lives in Montclair, New Jersey, has been photographing Jersey residents as they undertake the arduous process of raising their homes, making them look a bit less Jersey and a bit more Southeast Asia. He’ll be revisiting neighborhoods on the shore in October to assess the progress.

Follow Ira Wagner’s visual journey starting September 25, on Instagram @newrepublic.