New Jersey affordable housing remains “Out of Reach”

Out of Reach

As the Monarch Housing Blog! reported on April 4, 2008, New Jersey remains the fifth most expensive state for affordable rental housing. The post last week announced the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s release of Out of Reach 2007-2008. Although we were disheartened again today with the release by our friends at the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey of the details about New Jersey we were pleased that they were taking the lead on making the case about the continued decline in affordability in New Jersey. As they note in their fact sheet “The hourly housing wage in New Jersey for a two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent in 2008 is $22.25. This wage has risen 42.6 percent since 2000.

To read the full report click here.

To read the Housing and Community Development Network’s fact sheet click here.

To read the Housing and Community Development Network’s four pages of data click here.

The following is their full press release.

Affordable rental housing still “Out of Reach” in NJ
Network says report shows need for action in fifth worst state

The release of the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s “Out of Reach 2007-2008,” the annual report documenting the need for affordable housing in every state in the nation, takes on an amplified importance for New Jersey this year, according to the Housing & Community Development Network of New Jersey.

“The NLIHC’s report, which once again places New Jersey among the most difficult states in which to find affordable places to live, points up the necessity and the urgency of taking meaningful action,” said Diane Sterner, the Network’s executive director.

In the 2006-2007 NLIHC report, New Jersey was the fourth most expensive state in which to rent. According to this year’s report, things haven’t changed much, with the state in fifth place. To afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent in New Jersey the tenant must have an hourly wage of at least $22.25, an almost five-percent increase from last year. Social workers, dental lab technicians, police dispatchers, home health aides, child care workers and school bus drivers, among a host of other occupations, make under $22.25 an hour in New Jersey. Only in Hawaii, California, New York and Massachusetts, is renting more expensive.

Susan Holman-James, president of the Network’s Executive Board, pointed out that the New Jersey mean wage is $16.45 an hour.

“People earning that wage have to work 54 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment,” she said. “For those earning less, the situation is, of course, worse.”

Earning the minimum wage – $7.15 an hour – would require a person to work 124 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent.

The most expensive New Jersey counties for renters are the sparsely populated Hunterdon County and the densely populated Middlesex, Somerset, Bergen and Passaic counties, where a person must earn upwards of $50,000 a year to afford a two-bedroom
rental. In Passaic County, 62 percent of renters can’t afford fair market rents. In Monmouth and Ocean counties, 59 percent cannot.

Lovely Ali, a working mother from Hackensack, can testify to the difficulty of finding decent, affordable housing in New Jersey.

“There was a very difficult period when, after we made sure our children were safe at the home of a friend or a relative, my husband and I would sleep in the car,” said Ali, a substitute teacher and student. Her husband works as an HVAC specialist.

The Alis have seven children and, with the help of the Interreligious Fellowship of Teaneck, were finally able to find a five-bedroom rental in Hackensack for $2,000 a month, for which they receive some rental assistance from the Bergen County Housing Authority. According to the Out of Reach report, to afford the fair market rent for a four-bedroom apartment in Bergen County, a couple would need an annual income of $71,440. The Alis combined income is about $45,000. Even with rental assistance, they struggle to afford their current home.

“There are stories like these throughout the state,” Holman-James said. “The data is very helpful. But we must never forget that these disturbing figures mean distressing events happening to real people – people we see and know and are related to.”

“The state data, in all, indicates a dire situation for hundreds of thousands of people, but one that can be corrected if addressed with intelligence and resolve,” Sterner said. “The Network will continue to support the state’s efforts to address the affordable housing crisis, for as long as those efforts remain focused on real achievement.”

Sterner and Holman-James noted that state government has recognized the affordable housing crisis and is taking several positive steps to address it, in both the legislative and executive branches.

The Network called Governor’s Corzine’s budget increase of $15 million in funding for the State Rental Assistance Program, as well as the foreclosure prevention bill and Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts’ housing reform bill, both of which were recently introduced into the state Legislature, promising developments in the ongoing campaign to live up to the spirit of the state Supreme Court’s Mount Laurel decisions, which is that everyone should have a decent, affordable home.

“The legislative efforts, as well as the Department of Community Affairs’ Housing Plan, are in their preliminary stages,” Sterner said. “The NLIHC report shows how far we have to go.”

The National Low-Income Housing Coalition compiled and analyzed U.S. Census and HUD data in preparing its report. The full report is available by clicking here, from which New Jersey information is extractable.

For the Network’s analysis of the report’s New Jersey data, including jobs information click here.

The Network is the statewide association of over 250 community development corporations, other organizations and individuals promoting increased affordable housing and equitable community development. The Network is also the state partner of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition.