In November of 2014, the Wall Street Journal highlighted the growing number of impoverished residents in New Jersey. The article relied on statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, which made special note of acute areas of poverty in the counties of Cumberland and Hudson.
As New Jersey’s overall poverty rate has grown, it makes sense that the Bureau’s findings display obvious issues with Cumberland and Hudson counties when we consider the distribution of affordable housing within those counties.
In Cumberland County, for example, Vineland City holds 38.9% of all affordable housing units in the county. Millville holds 30.3%, and Bridgeton holds 27.8%. So, to break that down a little bit, 97% of all affordable housing exists in just three towns in Cumberland County. Many municipalities are not even shown in the Guide to Affordable Housing, and the others that are, such as Commercial Township, hold just .73% of all units within Cumberland County.
Up north in Hudson County, we see a similar trend by which several municipalities do not even appear on the Guide to affordable housing, thus suggesting no units exist in the omitted towns. However, it is important to note the extremely high concentration of affordable housing within Jersey City. When compared to the entire county, Jersey City holds 48.51% of all affordable housing units.
Within both images, it is important to take note of the COAH Unanswered Requirement, located at the bottom. These numbers show that cities such as Jersey City and Vineland City currently hold many more units of affordable housing than they were required to build. On the other end, towns such as Upper Deerfield and Commercial have not completed their affordable housing obligations.
As specific municipalities continue to be the sole possessors of affordable housing, we will continue to see municipal economies fizzle out. The economies will fizzle because these designated towns will be the only places in which poor families can live. As the economies shrink, and less jobs are available to residents, by default, the poverty rate will continue to grow in these systematically designated areas of affordable housing concentrations.
Bergen County is a living example of proper affordable housing distribution.
No municipality within Bergen County holds more than 15% of the total number of affordable units for the county. Because of a somewhat even distribution, municipalities generally require less state aid, and they hold more successful economies.
The bottom line is that New Jersey can no longer designate just a few areas as the only places poor people can live in. If we do, Jersey City and Vineland may reach concentrations equivalent to Camden City (58.1%).