Report Find Rents In New Jersey Remain Unaffordable Despite Pandemic Aid

According to a new analysis from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, New Jersey continues to be one of the least affordable states in the union for renters, with a minimum-wage worker needing to work 96 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

The state’s poorest citizens were able to remain in their homes thanks to emergency rental assistance and eviction moratoria put in place during the pandemic, but Staci Berger, president and CEO of the Housing & Community Development Network of New Jersey, who released the findings Thursday during a press briefing, said that the gap between what people need to earn to pay rent and what they actually earn has persisted.

According to the study, a renter in New Jersey has to make $31.32 per hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment at the fair market rate, which places the state’s rental affordability at No. 7.

No state wants to be included among the top 10, according to Berger.

According to Arnold Cohen, the network’s senior policy adviser, inflation and rising apartment prices prevent thousands of New Jersey residents from accessing safe, affordable housing.

People who put a lot of effort into providing for their families still have to make the tough decision of where to spend their money—on food, clothing, or putting a roof over their heads, according to Cohen. “Full-time employees shouldn’t have to make those types of challenging choices.”

Paterson resident Tanika Moss claimed that she has consistently had problems locating an inexpensive housing.

“It seems like nearly walking on the moon just trying to locate an apartment that you can afford in a secure neighborhood to raise your children,” Moss added. The ones you can afford are in the most dangerous areas of the city since the prices are out of control.

According to Berger and Cohen, the data indicate that governments need to increase rental support.

Just one in four homes who are eligible for federal housing assistance are now receiving it, they claimed. Fewer than 5% of the 86,000 applicants in New Jersey, or 4,000 people, will receive rental help from the state, according to officials.

Berger praised Gov. Phil Murphy’s March-announced proposal to build affordable homes with $305 million from the American Rescue Plan. She also applauded the state’s $170 million pledge to remove lead paint from older houses and apartments nationwide.

But she said that there is still a lot to be done.

By developing a consolidated application, New Jersey officials should make it simpler for tenants to apply for both housing and rental assistance and check where they stand on wait lists. The Senate last year approved a bill to streamline the procedure, but the Assembly did not vote to move it. This year, it was reintroduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

Berger also encouraged legislators to take action to change the way people apply for apartments, which may result in renters paying for criminal background checks even though there is no assurance they would be approved.

Berger argued that taxing people for apartments they might never even enter is exploitative and byzantine at the same time.

Added Moss “It doesn’t seem like much to attempt to move into an apartment for $35. But the money adds up when you have to pay $35 seven, eight, nine, or ten times. It may go toward your mortgage, petrol costs, food, or any other expenses we still have to pay.”

Additionally, Berger argued that it should be illegal for landlords to take prospective renters’ credit ratings into account. In January, a measure on this was presented by many Democratic lawmakers.

According to the survey, 36 percent of New Jersey residents rent, totaling close to 1.2 million rental homes across the state.

With 68 percent, 56 percent, and 48 percent of persons renting, Hudson, Essex, and Passaic counties have the highest percentages of renters in the state. According to the analysis, the fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in both counties is among the highest in the state, costing $1,972 per month in Hudson County, $1,479 per month in Essex, and $1,736 per month in Passaic.

Jersey City, Middlesex-Somerset-Hunterdon, Bergen-Passaic, Trenton, and Monmouth-Ocean are the five most costly metropolitan regions for renters in the state. Renters in those places must earn $30 to $38 per hour in order to pay their rent. If rent represents more than 30% of a renter’s income, housing activists consider that rent is unaffordable.

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