Housing advocates draw attention to ‘unconscionable’ rent increases (up to 40% since COVID)

Unconscionable rent increases, coupled with rising consumer costs, are harming New Jersey renters. The Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey wants the state to do something about it.

The group is asking the Legislature to address concerns over the rental market by implementing stronger protections for the state’s 1.2 million renter households.

How bad is it? According to data published by real estate website Zillow, rents increased between 20-40% in 14 New Jersey counties since the start of the pandemic.

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New Jersey is the seventh-most expensive place in the nation for renters, with Hudson County being the most expensive. For the state’s more affordable counties, though, there is little relief. According to Zillow, one of the few counties with typical rents below $2,000 saw the biggest spike. Atlantic County went from $1,264 pre-pandemic to $1,766.

Staci Berger, the CEO of the Network, said enough is enough.

“We have seen across-the-board, post-pandemic rent increases throughout the state, and they are doing real harm to families struggling to make ends meet,” she said. “New Jersey officials can make sure our most vulnerable residents are safely and stably housed by taking immediate action to prevent unconscionable and predatory rent hikes.”

Here’s the catch: New Jersey has no statewide formula for rent increases. However, the state’s Anti-Eviction Law states that “a landlord cannot make you pay an increase in rent that is so large that it is unconscionable, meaning that it is extremely harsh or so unreasonable as to be shocking.”

About the Network

The Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey is the statewide association of more than 275 community development corporations, individuals and other organizations that support the creation of affordable homes, economic opportunities and strong communities.

Berger said housing advocates are seeking guidelines to define the term “unconscionable” with regard to acceptable and legal rent increases.

“New Jersey renters are not ATMs for pandemic-profiteering landlords,” she said. “It’s crucial for the health and safety of our communities and our economy to have powerful, statewide rental protections that keep renters in their homes and provide stability for both renters and property owners.

“Families are suddenly being told to find hundreds of dollars more in their budget to keep a roof over their head. With affordable rentals few and far between, families are making detrimental sacrifices to avoid homelessness. The Legislature must act swiftly to end greedy rent increases.”