TRENTON – According to an annual, national report released today, New Jersey is the fifth most expensive state for renters. The report, Out of Reach, was jointly released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), a research and advocacy organization dedicated solely to achieving affordable and decent homes for the lowest income people, and the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey (the Network).
In order to afford a modest two-bedroom home in the Garden State, a family must earn an hourly wage of $28.86, far more than the state’s average hourly wage of $18.68 or the current $8.85 minimum wage. That means, at the mean wage, an individual would have to work 62 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent (FMR) or 130 hours per week for a minimum wage worker.
“The latest numbers show what advocates and community leaders already know: New Jersey residents are working harder and longer to provide homes for their families,” said Staci Berger, president and chief executive officer of the Network. “For the first time in a decade, our elected officials have an opportunity to invest in affordable homes by fully supporting the Housing Trust Fund. The state budget should not divert a penny from the Fund, but fully invest in making New Jersey a place everyone can afford to call home.”
2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the report that documents the significant gap between renters’ wages and the cost of rental housing across the United States. Out of Reach reports on the Housing Wage (the hourly wage a full-time worker must earn to afford a modest and safe rental home without spending more than 30 percent of his or her income on housing costs) for all states and counties in the country. Among the 30 largest occupations in NJ, 21 pay median wages less than the housing wage. This includes teacher assistants, nursing assistants, accounting clerks, home health aides, truck drivers, security guards, janitors, food preparation workers, receptionists, cashiers and others.
“People who are the backbone of our economy are struggling to keep a roof over their head,” said John Restrepo, Network board chair and director of housing and community development for Garden State Episcopal Community Development Corporation. “Investments on the state and federal level to create more affordable homes are crucial because our economy cannot thrive if people can’t afford to make ends meet.”
Housing advocates are urging NJ legislators to support Governor Murphy’s proposed state budget which includes fully funding the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The Network is also a state partner for the Opportunity Starts at Home Campaign which aims to increase federal investments in proven solutions to make homes affordable to low-income people.
“The 2019 Out of Reach report represents a startling reality of the cost of living in New Jersey but most importantly the reality faced every day by the people that reside in nation’s fifth most expensive state,” said the Honorable Ras J. Baraka, mayor of the City of Newark. “At minimum wage, a New Jersey resident would have to work 130 hours per week or 3.3 full jobs a week to afford a two-bedroom at fair market rent. This is further troubling as the study points to that here in Essex County, 55 percent of the total households are renters. This data clearly presents a strong need for a statewide housing policy strategy that creates a plan on how we invest in homes that everyone can afford and passing a budget that fully supports the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. This will help move Newark and New Jersey forward to a more equitable place to live.”
“It’s a fact – New Jersey is one of the most expensive places in the nation to own or rent a home. Exacerbating this problem is that affordable housing units are severely lacking,” saidSenator Troy Singleton, Chairman of the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee. Housing shouldn’t be a luxury only afforded by the wealthy; it is a basic human necessity. By fully funding the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, we can begin to address our housing crisis in earnest.”
“After Sandy we have seen double digit increases in the cost of rental housing in our area,” said Donna Blaze, chief executive officer, Affordable Housing Alliance. “When we opened a waiting list for our most recent affordable rental home site, we had 75 applicants for every unit we had available. There is obviously more and more folks being priced out of our communities and something has to give.”
“Families in our community that are facing homelessness are usually working – often more than 40 hours a week – to try to make ends meet,” said Connie Mercer, founder and chief executive officer, HomeFront. “The simple fact is that when half or more of your pay goes to putting a roof over your kids’ heads, it’s impossible to break free of the cycle of poverty. Until families can access adequate and safe homes they can afford, we will never make lasting progress in the fight to end homelessness and poverty.”
“The data is clear that people are living in places they can’t afford or they are homeless,” said Laura Rodgers, chief program officer, Jewish Family Services of Atlantic and Cape May Counties. “High rents in Atlantic & Cape May Counties cause individuals and families stress and anguish. For many who turn to us for assistance, all of their income is going toward rent and they are unable to save or to really flourish in life. Full funding of the New Jersey Affordable Housing Trust Fund allows for more affordable homes enabling our community as a whole to thrive.
The New Jersey data from Out of Reach 2019, including county data, is available at www.hcdnnj.org/oor. For the complete report, please visit www.nlihc.org/oor.
About the Housing and Community Development Network of NJ
The Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey is the statewide association of more than 250 community development corporations, individuals and other organizations that support the creation of affordable homes, economic opportunities, and strong communities. For more information on the Network, visit www.hcdnnj.org.