N.J. is sixth-most expensive place to rent

Out of Reach survey says resident needs to make nearly $32 an hour to be able to get two-bedroom apartment while only spending 30% of income

A national report released Wednesday said New Jersey is the sixth-most expensive location for renters.

(We’ll admit it: We would have figured Jersey was higher.)

The report, Out of Reach, was jointly released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a research and advocacy organization dedicated solely to achieving affordable and decent homes for people earning the lowest incomes, and the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, the statewide housing and community development association.

In order to afford a modest, two-bedroom rental home at fair market rent in New Jersey ($1,662), full-time workers need to earn the housing wage of $31.96 per hour, or $26.29 for a one-bedroom. 

The “housing wage” is the hourly wage a worker must earn to afford a modest and safe rental without spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs. Across the country, a renter needs to earn $24.90 per hour to afford a modest two-bedroom rental home or $20.40 per hour to afford a one-bedroom without spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs.

Hawaii, California, New York, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. are the only areas that are more expensive than Jersey.

Staci Berger, CEO of the Network, said the last 18 months have been difficult for renters in a state that traditionally has been an expensive place for lower-income workers.

“Too many families have been living at the edge of housing insecurity, and they are now threatened with homelessness, as eviction protections begin to expire,” she said. “We are shocked and dismayed that the N.J. Supreme Court is forcing tenants to attend settlement conferences, even as the Murphy Administration and the Legislature are disbursing emergency rental assistance and other protections. 

“We urge the governor to sign the Rental Navigator and Tenant Eviction Protection bills without delay, to help ease this crisis.”

In a recent Eagleton Poll, 87 percent of Garden State voters considered the cost of housing a serious problem. Many ranked rent control as one of their top choices for making homes more affordable.

Other facts and figures from the report:

  • Among the 30 largest occupations in New Jersey, 20 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;
  • The mean wage for a New Jersey renter is $19.38 an hour, below the housing wage for a modest two-bedroom. At the mean wage, an individual would have to work 66 hours a week or 1.6 jobs to afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair market rage;
  • At minimum wage — $12 an hour — a New Jersey resident would have to work 107 hours per week or 2.7 full jobs a week to afford a two-bedroom at FMR; 
  • Hudson, Bergen and Passaic counties are the most expensive for rentals, with a two-bedroom at fair market rent going for a monthly average of $1,770; 
  • Cumberland, Cape May, and Gloucester are the least affordable counties to those who live there. The average renter in those counties earns below $11.50 per hour, well under the housing wage; 
  • In Essex County, 56 percent of the total households are renters and in Hudson, more than 2/3 are renters;
  • The state needs more rental homes across the state that people can afford. Overall, more than a third of New Jerseyans rent their homes. The rental population is growing.