Report: Affordable Housing Elusive in Jersey City

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While anecdotal evidence might suggest that rents across the city are coming down slightly from their highs during the housing boom, a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition points out that housing in Jersey City is still far from affordable. The report warns that the economic downturn is likely to lead to more homelessness, as more families fall into the lowest income brackets and compete for a limited number of affordable rental units.

The annual “Out of Reach” report, which parses HUD, Census and other federal data, found that tenants need to make $48,760 annually to afford the average two-bedroom apartment in the city. That’s slightly higher than the state number of $48,087, which was the fourth-highest among the 50 states. The median annual income in the city is $56,300. Affordability in this case consists of not paying more than 30 percent of a household income on housing.

The group ultimately found that 57 percent of renters in Jersey City are unable to afford the $1,219 monthly rent on a Fair Market Rent (FMR) two-bedroom apartment. New Jersey’s minimum wage is currently $7.15 per hour — it will be upped to $7.25 in July. But the housing wage — the hourly rate needed to afford a FMR two-bedroom apartment — in Jersey City is $23.44. That would translate to working 131 hours per week, or holding 3.3 full-time jobs.

But the city says it is doing its part to shelter low-income renters from the vagaries of the market.

“In 2008, 221 units of affordable housing were built in Jersey City,” city spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill says. “Additionally, there are currently 369 units of affordable housing under construction, and another 350 units in the planning stages.”

The situation on the open market is worst for the poorest of the city’s poor — those who rely on federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments, a program designed to “help aged, blind and disabled people.” The monthly SSI payment to an individual is $705 in NJ. If SSI represents an individual’s sole source of income, $212 in monthly rent is affordable, while the FMR for a one-bedroom in Jersey City is $1,045 and a studio is $989.

“The longstanding structural deficit of rental homes that the lowest income people can afford, exacerbated by the economic recession, will surely lead to more people becoming homeless,” coalition president Sheila Crowley said in a statement. “We hope that Out of Reach will demonstrate to policy makers the urgency of acting now to increase the supply of affordable housing and housing assistance for those who are hit hardest by the recession.”

Jon Whiten

co-founder of the Jersey City Independent; he now works for a public-policy nonprofit in Trenton.

  • Denici

    This is absolutely true!! and the saddest part is THERE ARE NO JOBS IN JERSEY CITY!!only a few school are suitable for children to attend…AND THE CITY IS HEAVILY OVERCROWDED!!!! This city is expensive for no reason!!! The only thing excelling iS the CRIME!!!! ps Newport Towers is WAY overpriced!!!

  • http://affordinghousing Norine james

    MY son and i is suffering because nobody is willing to rent me and apartment for $700-750 because they say i make too little money, which is$7.25 an hour. even suppose to be low income refuse me say i can’t pay $365-550 for rent. This is out rageous and sad. I have to take a less than live standard apt. just to have a roof over our head as my husband is a abuser and we had to run awy from him. not even the shelter help me. My son have ashma and this place is killing him. I really dont understant. If i cannot get a place for the mony i work now WHY is the minimum wages$7.25.Where is the sense in all of this.