No relief: Study marks N.J. 7th most expensive to rent

New Jersey is the seventh most expensive place in the United States for people to rent, according to a report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey.

To afford a modest two-bedroom in the Garden State, the study found a family must earn an hourly wage of $29.69, which is more than the state’s average hourly wage of $19.10 and the current $11 per hour minimum wage. This means a person who is making the mean wage would have to work 62 hours a week to afford rent, or 108 hours for someone who’s making minimum wage.

“Trying to make the rent has always been a struggle for New Jerseyans and the coronavirus pandemic has rendered it almost impossible,” Staci Berger, CEO and president of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, said. “Right now, families are overwhelmed meeting their basic needs as the pandemic has ravaged our neighborhoods and turned our world upside. This data was compiled before ‘stay at home’ became a prescription to stop the spread of the virus. Now more than ever, housing affordability literally saves lives.”

The report highlights Housing Wage, which is the hourly wage a full-time worker must earn to afford a modest rental home without spending more than 30% of their income on housing costs.

Among 30 of the top occupations in the state, 20 pay out salaries less than the housing wage. These include teacher assistants, nursing assistants, accounting clerks, home health aides, truck drivers, security guards, laborers, food preparation workers, receptionists, cashiers and more.

“More than 9,000 families initiated the application process for the $1 million Emergency Housing Assistance Fund we created to help tenants keep their homes and supplement the moratorium on evictions I signed back in March,” Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka said. “78% of Newark residents are renters, many of whom work in occupations that are the backbone of our economy and most effected by the pandemic. Out of Reach represents the struggle they face every day even before COVID-19.”