Credit: Newark Press Information Office

A Shortage of Affordable Homes, a new report released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) and the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey (the Network), finds a national shortage of nearly seven million affordable and available rental homes for extremely low-income (ELI) renter households. These are households with incomes at or below the poverty level or 30 percent of their area median income, an average of $30,000 for a family of four in NJ. Over 73 percent of NJ’s poorest renter households are severely housing cost-burdened, spending more than half of their incomes on housing, with little left over for other basic necessities.

“Household budgets are more strained than ever before; rising costs are crushing our most vulnerable and the fear of homelessness is becoming a devastating reality,” said Sharon Barker, vice president and chief operating officer of the Network. “Housing has long been woefully underfunded and it’s a problem made worse by the pandemic. If we want our economy to thrive, doing nothing is not an option. Our state and federal leaders must commit to the steps needed to HouseNJ, by supporting transformative housing resources and investing in our communities.”

According to The Gap, in NJ, only 31 affordable and available rental homes exist for every 100 extremely low-income renter households. The report shows how these lowest-income renters were uniquely positioned to suffer disproportionately from the effects of lost income and housing insecurity during the pandemic. Although the state and federal government took unprecedented actions to protect the lowest-income renters, these were temporary. Eviction and utility moratoriums have been lifted and resources such as emergency rental assistance are running out. Longer-term investments are needed to combat the underlying shortage of affordable homes that exposed so many of these lowest-income renters to housing instability in the first place.

“The pandemic has made plain our nation’s lack of a housing safety net,” said NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel. “It is time to invest in long-term housing policies that will finally address the systemic shortage of affordable housing and provide housing stability for the lowest-income families.”

More residents are facing housing cost burdens, NJ is one of only eight states with high-cost metro areas that have a cumulative shortage of rental homes for residents earning up to the median income level. The Network launched a campaign earlier this year to advance anti-racist policies to achieve the large-scale, sustained investments and reforms necessary so that households with the lowest incomes have an affordable place to call home. HouseNJ calls on Congress to expand rental assistance, increase the National Housing Trust Fund and repair and preserve public housing.

The campaign also seeks policy and program interventions on the state level urging Governor Murphy and legislative leaders to invest $975 million from the American Rescue Plan in critical housing programs. Specifically, HouseNJ calls on the expansion of the NJ Affordable Housing Trust Fund, increasing the Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit, strengthening rental assistance and other policy interventions that remove barriers to housing access and security.

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