Affordable Options Scarce for Growing NJ Rental Market According to New National Study
According to the annual, national report released today, New Jersey is the fifth most expensive state to rent a home; only Hawaii, California, New York, and Maryland are less affordable as well as Washington, DC which is counted separately. In order to afford a modest two-bedroom home in the Garden State, a family must earn an hourly wage of $26.52, far more than the state’s average hourly wage of $16.98 or the $8.38 minimum wage.
“We have a supply and demand problem in New Jersey, more renters are entering the market and fewer affordable home options are available,” said Staci Berger, president and chief executive officer of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey (the Network). “We need federal and state leaders to put resources into making more homes affordable for more people. Now is not the time to cut housing resources in their budgets.”
To gauge affordability, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) and the Network both use the widely accepted measure that no more than 30 percent of a person's income should be spent on housing. As the Fair Market Rent (FMR) in the state for a two bedroom rental is $1,379, a family must earn $55,152 annually in order to make it affordable. Using that formula, a minimum wage worker would have to work 127 hours per week year-round to be able to afford a two-bedroom home at FMR.
Housing advocates say federal and state legislators should use their respective budgets to provide more affordable home opportunities. On the federal level, advocates are pleased to see the funds from the National Housing Trust Fund begin to be distributed but urge Congress to give full financial support to the Housing Choice Voucher Program should receive full financial support. On the state level, advocates support a new proposal from Senator Ray Lesniak (D-Union) to fund mixed-income housing developments in low-income neighborhoods.
"One of the biggest problems in this state is homes that are affordable,” said Lesniak. “It's a problem in terms of employers locating here and staying here. It's a problem for the homeless and low-income families who are using a major portion of their earnings for housing. It's not good for their quality of life or society in general.”
"There are about 20,000 people on the waiting list for Newark public housing," said the Honorable Ras J. Baraka, mayor of the City of Newark. "There is a huge need for affordable and low-income homes in the city. It becomes increasingly important for us to provide the kind of housing stock for the residents of the city to take part in the renaissance that Newark has."
Results of the 2016 Out of Reach report were released during a live web event today that featured comments from Senator Lesniak and Mayor Baraka as well as the Honorable Wilda Diaz, mayor of the City of Perth Amboy; the Honorable Albert B. Kelly, mayor of the City of Bridgeton; Tom Toronto, president of the Bergen United Way; Craig Sawyer, principal and managing partner of ESR Advisors; and Susan Kramer-Mills, executive director of Town Clock Community Development Corporation.
Also offering commentary during today’s event, was New Brunswick resident Tina Webb. Tina is a single mother of one who resides in Dina’s Dwelling, a rental community for female survivors of domestic violence.
“I was looking for two years in New Brunswick for housing so it was a blessing to find Dina's Dwelling," said Tina. "The home is affordable for my son and I and we have a two bedroom that I love. We're happy to have our own home now."
The report, Out of Reach 2016, was jointly released by the NLIHC, a Washington, D.C.-based housing policy organization and the Network. The report provides the Housing Wage and other housing affordability data for every state, metropolitan area, combined non metropolitan area, and county in the country.
The New Jersey data from Out of Reach 2016 is also available at www.hcdnnj.org/outofreach. For the complete report, please visit www.nlihc.org/oor.
About the Housing and Community Development Network of NJ
For more information: Nina Arce