Most Expensive States for Renters

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TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey is the fifth most expensive state for renters, making it difficult for many in commonplace jobs to find decent housing, according to a new report from an affordable housing advocacy group.

The report released Monday by the National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates about half America's renters cannot afford the average apartment appropriate for their family size.

"The current mortgage crisis has awakened everyone to what low-income renters have known for a long time - even modest homes are too costly for most low-income families," said Sheila Crowley, the coalition president.

The report found the average national rent is $900, up 7 percent from last year.

It determined someone must earn $36,019 per year to afford such an apartment, or $17.32 per hour.

Renters account for a third of U.S. households, accounting for about 36 million households.

The survey found Hawaii, where workers must earn $29.02 per hour to afford the average apartment, is the nation's most expensive state for renters, followed by California, New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

It found the cheapest rents in Puerto Rico, where someone must earn $9.10 per hour, followed by North Dakota, West Virginia, South Dakota and Arkansas.

In New Jersey, the report found, someone would need to earn $22.25 per hour to afford the average two-bedroom apartment, up 5 percent from last year.

Susan Holman-James, president of The Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, said most Garden State workers earn about $16.45 per hour.

"People earning that wage have to work 54 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment," she said. "For those earning less, the situation is, of course, worse."

The network said its research indicates several occupations - including preschool teachers, child care workers, home health aides, police and fire dispatchers, security guards, school bus drivers and social workers - don't generate enough income to afford decent housing.

The report comes with New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine proposing cutting property tax rebates for tenants to save $127 million, but also seeking to boost rental assistance for low-income residents by $15 million.

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New Jersey has the nation's highest property taxes, at $6,800 per homeowner. Tenants don't directly pay property taxes but presumably do so through rent payments.

Housing advocates praised the proposed rental assistance increase, but Diana Sterner, the network's executive director, said the report "shows how far we have to go."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.

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