City by City, NJ Report Examines Gap Between Renters and Rentals

Aired January 23, 2023
By Dino Flammia

There's inequality and affordability challenges plaguing rental markets throughout the Garden State, and a new report goes city by city to shine a closer light on the issue.

"We have a huge disparity between the number of available and affordable units, and the number of people who need them," Staci Berger, president and CEO of the Housing and Community Development Network of NJ, told New Jersey 101.5.

HCDNNJ undertook the research effort with partner organizations to get a better look at the situations that individual renters are facing. A statewide view of the data doesn't always truly capture the challenges faced by low-income renters, Berger said.

It's estimated that New Jersey has a shortage of over more than 207,000 affordable and available homes for "extremely low-income renters," compared to nearly 100% availability for top earners.

Many of the lowest earners spend more than half of their income on rent, according to the groups.

The research points to "discriminatory practices of the past, such as redlining," that have had generational impacts on where people can live.

According to the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, median wealth for Black households is $17,700, while it's $322,500 for white households.

City profiles in the Renter Empowerment and Neighborhood Tools for Health Equity report:

  • Atlantic City
  • Camden
  • Newark
  • New Brunswick
  • Paterson
  • Trenton

The report credits the state for Fiscal Year 2023 commitments of more than $300 million to address the state's housing needs. The Affordable Housing Protection Fund is expected to help create thousands of units cross a number of New Jersey municipalities.

"But much more needs to be done to address the numerous challenges that impact housing quality, affordability, integration and access to opportunity for low-income renters," the report says.

HCCDNNJ's report makes several recommendations for action, including: elimination of credit score standards for tenants, particularly those who've already been vetted for rental assistance eligibility; the creation of a more streamlined application process for families; and a housing investment of $975 million.

"These steps need to be part of a multi-pronged approach to fund more affordable housing while promoting community-based wealth building," the groups said. "And racial discrimination, in all its forms, must be stopped."