When taking on the sometimes daunting task of finding a new place to live, there are myriad factors to consider: location, square footage, amenities, public transportation options, and price. The latter is, for many people, one of the major considerations in determining which of the others can be sacrificed in the name of keeping a full coin purse. So how do you go about finding affordable housing in New Jersey, and what are your options?
First, it’s important to know your area mean income (AMI), which is the average income for households living in a given area. If you’re earning less than 80 percent of the AMI, you’re considered low income and that starts to open up some additional options for you, as far as renting goes.
Ideally, you should be aiming to spend no more than 30 percent of your total household income on rent. It’s a safe number that leaves the remainder to all your other living expenses and incidentals. If you’re living in an area with a rather high AMI, but you’re not earning anywhere near that, it could be difficult to find a place that’s even close to the 30 percent mark.
But don’t worry: This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to consider vacating the region. If, say, you’re making 30 percent (or less) of the AMI, you can qualify for low-income housing. This is offered by developers who agree to set aside a certain number of low-income apartments in their properties in exchange for a tax credit.
Additionally, you may be lucky enough to find some properties that are still a part of the fading public housing program. While these types of homes are no longer being built, they do still exist and the government is in charge of maintaining a fair, low-income rent rate.
If you’re making more than 30 percent of the AMI, but still not quite over 80 percent mark, your next option may be to look for Section 8 housing. There are two ways Section 8 works. In some circumstances (resident-based), you can apply for and receive a voucher (from your state’s public housing agency) that is yours to use toward any rental property you choose to live at. The other (project-based) gives that discount voucher directly to property managers. In exchange, they agree to offer a select number of below–market value homes to renters in need. The only application you need for this one is directly through your would-be landlord.
So, while it may seem like finding affordable housing in New Jersey is nearly impossible to find, there are options out there. You just need to know where to look.