A new report finds New Jersey is the 6th most expensive state in the nation when it comes to renting a place to live.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition finds many New Jersey families are forced to use most of their earned income to pay rent, and as a result many are on the edge of losing their housing because they have no savings.

“Unfortunately, the hourly housing wage, which is what folks have to make to afford a fair market apartment, is $27.31,” said Staci Berger, president of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey.

She pointed out that’s up from last year’s total of $26.52.

Somebody who is trying to afford a place to live and earning the minimum wage would have to work 129 hours per week, or over three full-time jobs to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

According to Berger the average salary for renters in he Garden State is $17.85 an hour.

She said the high cost of renting is especially bad news for people who earn the minimum wage, $8.44 an hour.

“Somebody who is trying to afford a place to live and earning the minimum wage would have to work 129 hours per week, or over three full-time jobs to afford a two-bedroom apartment. It’s just out of reach for so many New Jersey residents,” she said.

The fair market rent in New Jersey for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,420 a month, which means a family must earn $56,819 to be able to make it affordable.

Fair market rents are used to determine payment standard amounts for the Housing Choice Voucher program, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Berger said rents are so high in New Jersey many people have their backs up against the wall.

“They choose to not spend money on anything else, which hurts the rest of our economy, so they don’t shop they don’t enjoy cultural activities, they don’t go to the movies, they don’t take their kids out. They really are working to afford a place to live,” she said.

“The rest of our economy shrinks and suffers as a result, and that’s bad for everybody."

Berger said her Network is calling on New Jersey officials to put $600 million into the community development system in the state “to make sure there are resources to create the kinds of homes that people need, so we can all do better.”

She pointed out if someone gets sick or loses their job, there’s a good chance they’ll also lose their home.

“It’s clearly not as safe or secure or healthy for families to be couch surfing or living in their car or living in a shelter,” she said.

“We’re one of the richest states in one of the richest countries in the world, we can make sure everyone has an affordable place to call home.”

The Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey is the statewide association of more than 250 community development corporations, individuals and other organizations that support the creation of affordable homes, economic opportunities, and strong communities.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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