NJ is 6th-most expensive in U.S. for renters, national report says
The housing market remains red-hot in New Jersey, which may have some potential homebuyers thinking about renting instead.
But even that may not be a wise move, at least as suggested in a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, which finds that New Jersey requires the 6th-highest working wage to support a modest, two-bedroom apartment.
The data for the Garden State in the "Out of Reach" report was compiled with the assistance of the Housing & Community Development Network of New Jersey, whose senior policy advisor, Arnold Cohen, said many residents compromise their bank accounts to fit their rental needs.
"People end up paying more, sometimes up to half their income for a rental, or settle for a rental that is less than satisfactory," Cohen said. "The average worker would have to be working 1.6 full-time jobs in order to afford the rent for a modest, two-bedroom apartment."
According to the report, that translates to a $56,000 salary, or a $31.96 hourly wage.
Only California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York state, and the District of Columbia rank higher.
Cohen said that even in parts of New Jersey where rents are cheaper, such as Cumberland and Cape May counties, salaries tend to be lower.
And there are many areas of the state that have significantly higher renter populations than the one-third statewide average of residents.
"It's especially magnified in a county like Hudson County, where two-thirds of the residents are renters, so it just numerically affects a lot more people," Cohen said.
The COVID-19 pandemic did not do the rental market any favors, although Cohen said New Jersey's moratorium on evictions for nonpayment "fortunately" is being left in place longer than elsewhere in the country.
Still, HCDNNJ is pushing for Gov. Phil Murphy to sign two pieces of legislation, known as the Rental Navigator and Tenant Eviction Protection bills, that would ensure emergency assistance into 2022 and prevent eviction actions from going on a renter's record.
At the federal level, an infrastructure bill backed by the Biden administration includes proposals to create more of a supply for renters and increase vouchers, measures HCDNNJ supports.
"Right now for somebody able to get assistance for their rent, it's called a Section 8 voucher from the federal government, you really have to hit the lottery. (Only) 1 in 5 people who are eligible by income get any help," Cohen said.
Ultimately, Cohen said, the goal of all of these bills would be to one day eliminate homelessness both in New Jersey and nationwide.