New Jersey has dropped one notch on a yearly ranking of the most expensive states for renters — but it and New York are still among the least affordable in the nation.
The annual “Out of Reach” rankings by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, jointly released in the Garden State with the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey Thursday, named New Jersey the seventh most expensive state in the US for renters. That’s a slight shift from last year, when the state ranked sixth, but a stark reminder of the state’s need for more affordable housing.
New York state retained the fourth-place ranking it had last year.
The report said a New Jersey resident working a $13 per hour minimum wage job would need to work 80 hours a week to afford a one-bedroom apartment and not spend more than a third of their income on rent, a measure that the federal government uses to determine affordability. More than a third of residents across the state rent their homes. In Hudson and Essex counties, more than half are renters. In Passaic, 48% rent.
“You have people working hard doing all they can to support their families and they are still faced with the very difficult decision of where they spend their dollars,” Arnold Cohen, senior policy adviser for the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, said during a press call with reporters on Thursday to analyze the data.
The report is based on 2020 census data, but Cohen said the affordability crunch is likely much worse due to recent spiraling inflation costs.
Paterson resident Tanika Moss said she’s struggling to find an affordable apartment in a safe neighborhood for her three children and her niece. She said the apartment search is almost like “walking on the moon at this point, it seems so far away. You are turned away, the prices are out of control.”
Moss said the apartments that she can afford on her salary working at a women’s center are “in the scariest parts of town.”
“I just want to find something safe and affordable where I can raise my children,” she said Thursday.
To afford a modest two-bedroom apartment at fair market rate and not use more than a third of their income, a resident would need to earn $31.32 an hour, the report said. New Jersey has one of the country’s highest minimum wages, at $13 an hour, but of the 30 jobs in the state that employ the most people, 22 don’t pay enough to afford a two-bedroom apartment, the report said.
New Jersey opened its state rental assistance voucher program earlier this month to help subsidize housing costs for very low-income residents. But more than 80,000 people applied for only 4,000 slots.
A New York resident needs to earn $37.72 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment at market rate and not spend more than 30% of their wages on housing, the report said.
“We know people are suffering and hurting, and that’s not right,” Staci Berger, president and CEO of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, said Thursday. She wants the state to create a centralized resource for residents to search and apply for apartments, and to check on a unit’s availability.Berger said the state should also consider a one-time application and background check fee to limit how much residents are paying when searching for homes.
Paying those fees to each prospective landlord can be significant over time, according to Moss, who said that “$35 doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you have to pay $35 seven, eight, nine times, that money adds up.”
The most expensive states ahead of New Jersey in the ranking were Hawaii; California; Massachusetts; New York; Washington, D.C.; and Washington state.