Studies shed light on high cost of housing in New Jersey

Published June 13, 2017
By Mario Marroquin

The Garden State was the sixth-most-expensive state for renters, based on a new report published by the National Low Income Housing Coalition cited by the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey.

“In order to afford a modest two-bedroom home in the Garden State, a family must earn an hourly wage of $27.31, far more than the state’s average hourly wage of $17.86 or the $8.44 minimum wage,” the HCDN said in a news release. “As the Fair Market Rent in the state for a two-bedroom rental is $1,420, a family must earn $56,810 annually in order to make it affordable. Using that formula, a minimum wage worker would have to work 129 hours per week year-round to be able to afford a two-bedroom home at FMR.”

The organization has urged state officials to “Build a Thriving New Jersey” and invest $600 million into housing residents can afford. HCDN said that, as part of its campaign, funding for 10 community developments, which was in the past diverted or abandoned, may be used.

The firm said it hopes to carry out its mission with the help of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, the State Rental Assistance Program, the Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit Program, as well as Lead Poisoning Prevention and Weatherization and Homeless Service programs.

"Home rental costs are steadily increasing each year and, when you factor in other expenses like groceries and utilities, it's a struggle for countless New Jersey residents,” Staci Berger, CEO and president of the HCDN, said. “Our housing market is like a car dealership that only sells Maserati cars and only a handful of Ford Fiestas. We need more variety, so that all our residents can afford to call New Jersey home. We can’t ‘Build a Thriving New Jersey’ if our elected officials don’t make investments that help create a balanced housing market.”

The report, “Out of Reach 2017,” was released at an event in Jersey City by the Garden State Episcopal Community Development Corp. Jersey City Deputy Mayor Marcos Vigil, Jersey City Council President Rolando Lavarro and Councilwoman Joyce Waterman attended the event.

“We have the resources to solve the affordable housing crisis by realigning federal tax expenditures and reinvesting the savings in rental housing programs that serve our nation’s most vulnerable,” Diane Yentel, CEO and president of the NLIHC, said. “We lack only the political will to do so.”

Key stats in the report include:

  • New Jersey ranks behind Hawaii, California, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., as the sixth-most-expensive state for renters nationally.
  • Hunterdon, Middlesex and Somerset counties are the most expensive areas for rentals, with a modest two-bedroom market rent average of $1,654.
  • Cape May, Warren and Cumberland counties are more affordable to renters in those areas.

In Essex County, 55 percent of the total households are renters. About 69 percent of households are renters in Hudson.

Another report, recently published by Yardi Matrix, found that, although rents slowed their growth during the month of May, Jersey City remains the city with the sixth-highest rent in the country.

With a 1.7 percent change year-over-year, Jersey City’s rents have continued to increase in the last 12 months. Still, the news could have been worse, Yardi Matrix said.

“Renters have much reason to be optimistic. After a long period of incessant rent increases, rents are finally slowing down,” Yardi Matrix senior analyst Doug Ressler said.

In terms of month-over-month change, the city showed a 0.1 percent increase for the month of May, with an average of about $2,794.

“Even if demand for apartment living is still robust, rent growth will continue to taper off in the coming months, mainly prompted by the record number of new apartments entering the country’s tightest markets,” Ressler said.

Yardi Matrix found that, of the 250 most populated cities in the country, only 15 saw a decrease in rent, while 45 saw virtually no change. And 76 percent of those cities, about 189, saw rent increases last month.

Manhattan had the highest rent for May, at a $4,094 average and a -2.9 percent change year-over-year.