Most New Jerseyans Say Housing Costs are a Serious Problem, Finding a Place to Rent is Difficult; Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Housing Access
Two-Thirds of New Jerseyans Support Using Affordable Housing Trust Fund Solely As Intended;
Residents Want Statewide Rent Control, Increase In Rental Assistance


Almost nine in 10 New Jerseyans consider the cost of housing to be a “very serious” (55 percent) or “somewhat serious” (32 percent) problem, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll in collaboration with the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey. Similarly, eight in 10 feel it is “very” (49 percent) or “somewhat” (32 percent) difficult to find an affordable place to rent in New Jersey based on what they have experienced or heard.

Just 16 percent say their monthly housing costs are “very” affordable, while 41 percent say “somewhat”; four in 10, on the other hand, feel their costs are either “not very affordable” (26 percent) or “not affordable at all” (13 percent).

Fifty-eight percent say that the coronavirus pandemic did not impact their household’s ability to make monthly rent or mortgage payments; 31 percent say that the pandemic made it more difficult, and just 7 percent said less difficult.

“Overall, there is widespread concern about housing costs in New Jersey, but there are stark demographic differences when it comes to who is personally affected,” said Ashley Koning, an assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP) at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “Notable disparities emerge in perceptions of renting difficulties and reported affordability of personal monthly housing costs by race, ethnicity, and whether someone owns or rents.”

Black residents (56 percent) and Hispanic residents (51 percent) are slightly more likely than white residents (45 percent) to say it is “very difficult” to find an affordable place to rent in the Garden State, feel a greater strain when it comes to their own housing costs (20 percent and 19 percent say “not at all affordable,” versus 10 percent), and are more likely to say that the pandemic made it more difficult to afford their monthly housing costs (39 percent and 37 percent versus 23 percent).

Renters are more likely than homeowners to feel that the cost of housing is a “very serious” problem (61 percent versus 53 percent), that finding an affordable place to rent is “very difficult” (53 percent versus 46 percent), and that their housing costs are “not very” or “not at all” affordable (48 percent versus 33 percent). Renters are also almost twice as likely as homeowners to say they felt the impact of the pandemic (45 percent compared to 24 percent); almost seven in 10 homeowners, on the other hand, say that the pandemic had no impact on their ability to make monthly mortgage payments.

“New Jersey’s relentless housing crisis deepened during the pandemic, and it did so in much the same way as the COVID virus – disproportionately harming Black and Brown households,” said Staci Berger, president and chief executive officer of the Housing and Community Development Network of NJ. “Housing affordability continues to be a widespread concern across every NJ community, but these results drive home that renters, especially Black and Brown households, have experienced the combined economic toll of the pandemic and housing shortage much more deeply,” said Berger. “A strong and equitable recovery for all depends on our state leaders investing resources to create the affordable homes our residents need and to take strong steps to make homes more affordable for those earning the least.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 1,094 adults contacted by live interviewers on landlines and cell phones from May 21–29. The full sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Housing affordability is seen as a problem overall, but not necessarily for oneself
A majority in almost every demographic group says that the cost of housing in New Jersey is a “very serious” problem. Partisans of all stripes feel this way to a similar degree. Middle-aged residents are also more likely than either younger or older residents to feel that housing costs are a “very serious” problem in the state.

Views are somewhat more varied regarding how difficult it is to find an affordable place to rent. Once again, middle-aged residents are more likely to feel this way than either younger or older residents. Those living down the shore (57 percent) or in urban areas of the state (54 percent) are also more likely than those in other regions to say it is “very difficult” to find an affordable place to rent.

New Jerseyans are more divided when it comes to how affordable they feel their own monthly housing costs are. Younger residents, lower-income residents, and renters are all more likely than their counterparts to feel their housing costs are less affordable.

Moreover, some residents felt the effects of the pandemic, in terms of housing affordability, more than others. Younger residents also say they were affected more than older residents. Reports that the pandemic made affording monthly housing more difficult decrease as income increases. A similar trend emerges with education.

Urbanites were split between whether the pandemic had no impact (47 percent) or made it more difficult; they are the most likely – by double-digits – to say it made things more difficult (43 percent), compared to those living in other parts of the state; about six in 10 of residents in other regions say it had no impact at all.

Support across the board for using funds as intended
A solid majority of New Jerseyans want the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to be used solely for building affordable homes. When told that this funding has been used to pay for other programs in the state budget in prior years instead of for its original intention, 62 percent of residents say it should be used solely for the latter. Twenty percent feel the state government should be able to use these funds for other purposes and 17 percent are unsure. Support for using the funds for their original intention increases to 69 percent when respondents are told that the funds may be used to pay for other housing programs geared toward helping “higher-income residents.”

“Support for spending NJ’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund as intended is strong, and the public favors key interventions like statewide rent control for the future, to make our housing market fairer and more affordable for everyone,” noted Berger.

A majority of every demographic supports using the Affordable Housing Trust Fund for its original intention, except Republicans: 49 percent of this group want the funds to be used for their original purpose, while 31 percent would not mind it being used for other programs, and 20 percent are unsure.

Support for using the funds the way in which they should be used increases within virtually every demographic group, including Republicans (to 61 percent), when the alternative is framed as using the funds to pay for other housing programs geared toward helping “higher-income residents.”

Rent control and assistance top priorities for some groups more than others
To help renters afford their monthly rent payments, New Jerseyans believe the most important thing the state government can do is adopt statewide rent control (22 percent) or increase rental assistance (21 percent). Another 12 percent want to see the state government encourage building more apartments, 7 percent want the government to end the use of credit checks for renters, and 4 percent want an eviction ban enacted; 12 percent say something else, 8 percent want nothing at all, and 14 percent are unsure.

There is a notable partisan divide when it comes to what the state should do to address making it easier for renters in New Jersey. Democrats (28 percent) are more likely than independents (17 percent) and Republicans (16 percent) to believe that the state should increase rental assistance. Republicans, on the other hand, are more than three times as likely as Democrats (4 percent versus 15 percent) and almost twice as likely as independents (8 percent) to say "nothing at all.”

Black residents and Hispanic residents are both more likely than white residents to say ending the use of credit checks for renters is the most important thing the state can do (16 percent and 11 percent, respectively, versus 5 percent). Black residents and Hispanic residents are also slightly more likely than white residents to want the state to "adopt statewide rent controls" (26 percent and 25 percent, respectively, versus 21 percent). White residents have a higher propensity of believing the state should do “nothing at all" (10 percent) compared to Black residents (2 percent) and Hispanic residents (5 percent).

Age also has an impact. Rental assistance is a top priority for those between 18 and 29 years old (26 percent); belief that this is the most important issue decreases with age. Likewise, rental assistance is more popular with lower income brackets compared to higher income brackets, as is ending the use of credit checks.

Urban residents are also most supportive of enacting statewide rent control (30 percent), compared to those living in other regions. Suburban and exurban residents are split between adopting rent control and increasing rental assistance (22 percent and 19 percent, respectively), while those in the southern part of the state favor adopting rent control the most (22 percent), and those down the shore favor increasing rental assistance (21 percent).

Housing and renter status
Most New Jerseyans are homeowners. Sixty-six percent say that they own a house; 11 percent rent a house. Fourteen percent rent an apartment, and another 1 percent rent a room in a house or apartment. Seven percent live with a relative or friend rent-free, and 1 percent say they currently do not have a permanent place to live. Homeownership is more common among males, white residents, older residents, higher-income residents, residents with higher levels of education, and those in exurban and southern regions of the state. Black residents, Hispanic residents, younger residents, lower-income residents, and those living in urban areas of the state are all more likely to be renters.

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HCDNNJ is the statewide association of over 275 non-profit community development organizations, private sector partners and housing advocates. Since 1989, the Network has worked to make sure that policies, resources and opportunities exist to Build A Thriving New Jersey, so that everyone can afford to call New Jersey home.