“We were headed to Seattle for a project when Sandy stuck her nose in the whole mix,” says This Old House series host Kevin O’Connor. On the air since 1979, This Old House typically shoots two extended renovation projects per TV season, one in its home state of Massachusetts and one in another state. Putting Seattle on hold, the producers decided to focus on Sandy instead.
“Sandy created arguably the largest housing crisis in the U.S.,” O’Connor says. “How do we not focus on that?”
O’Connor, 45, grew up in Maplewood and knows the Shore well. During his boyhood, his family rented a house on Long Beach Island each summer. For him, Sandy is personal. The issue, he says, is not whether to rebuild, but “how do we rebuild stronger, safer and smarter?” The series suggests numerous answers.
O’Connor and his crew have visited every few weeks to film progress on three homes, each in a different situation. In a departure from normal procedure, This Old House took an advisory role while local construction crews did the actual work. The show did not pay for repairs but arranged for the homeowners to receive significant discounts on labor and materials in return for the show giving the suppliers on-air credit.
Returning the Shore to any sense of normalcy will take years, O’Connor acknowledges. “This is a long, difficult and painful process,” he says. Among the challenges are navigating local regulations, waiting for final federal flood maps and dealing with extraordinary costs.
“Billions of dollars will be spent,” he says. “But what else are we going to do? Should we evacuate Venice? People can live near the water; the Jersey Shore will make their homes stronger.”
After Sandy wrecked her 1940s Cape-style home, Manasquan resident Rita Gurry decided to replace it with a modular home.
Point Pleasant: Raise
Point Pleasant homeowners Carlos and Maria Santos raised their house above flood level requirements, before getting the go-ahead from FEMA.
Bay Head: Restore
Christine and Jed Laird decided to restore their summer cottage in Bay Head, one of the oldest in town.