Housing coalition’s report blasts high cost of rent in N.J.

TRENTON – A housing group’s report showed New Jersey being one of the most expensive states in which to rent an apartment.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s report, “Out of Reach 2011,” a family in New Jersey must earn an hourly wage of $24.54 to rent and pay the utilities for “a safe and modest home”. That makes New Jersey the fourth most expensive in the country, according to the report by the NLIHC, a Washington D.C.-based housing policy group.

That means may Garden State renters are priced out. According to NLIHC, the typical renter in the state earns $15.82 per hour, or $8.72 less than the hourly wage needed to afford a market-rate, 2-bedroom unit. An estimated 61 percent of New Jersey renters do not earn enough to afford a typical market rate apartment, according to the Trenton-based Housing and Community Development Network. HCDN cited the report to highlight the increasingly high costs-of-living working class families face to put a roof over their heads.

On Thursday, the Assembly Housing  and Local Government Committee will take testimony on just this issue.

“This data only emphasizes the need for more affordable home choices in our state,” said Diane Sterner, executive director of HCDN, in a statement. “The governor’s proposed state budget has no money to either build or rehabilitate new homes that our hard-working families can afford. On the contrary, for the third year in a row NJ’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund is being raided. How can we expect New Jersey’s economy to bounce back when its workforce can’t afford to live here? In order to move our economy forward, we need to create homes and jobs in environmentally appropriate places with access to transit.”

The $24.54 wage required to afford a market-rate apartment is 56 percent higher than it was in 2000, according to the report.

The statewide average for renting a two-bedroom market-rate apartment is $1,276 and would require an annual income of $51,044 to pay for it, the report states.

Of the 21 counties in New Jersey, Bergen and Passaic County ranked as most expensive, where a two-bedroom, market-rate apartment costs $1,494. A family would need to earn $59,760 to pay for such an apartment. The percentage of households in each county that are unable to afford such an apartment are 56 percent and 76 percent, respectively.

The average rent for such an apartment in Mercer County, where Trenton is located, is below the state average, priced at $1,224. A family would need to earn $48,960 annually to sufficiently afford it, according to NLIHC data.

  Housing coalition’s report blasts high cost of rent in N.J.