From the Press of Atlantic City:
Nanci David fulfilled her dream of owning a home in 2004, moving into a two-story yellow house on a quiet Pleasantville street.
But now, the single mom said she’s thinking of a future outside New Jersey. Her housing expenses have been escalating, she said, and she still has another 27 years left on her mortgage, which is set at $1,530 per month.
“I do like New Jersey, but the cost of living is out of control,” said David, 27, a Honduran immigrant who works two jobs to support her 7-year-old son. “My salary hasn’t really changed. I’ve been looking at moving to other places, maybe Florida or South Carolina.”
U.S. Census figures released today only bolster the perception that the Garden State is the land of high-priced living.
New Jersey homeowners last year paid the second-highest costs in the nation in maintaining a house with a mortgage, or $2,278 per month. Only Californians paid more, at $2,314 per month.
Meanwhile, the median price of a month’s rent in New Jersey, including utility and fuel costs, was the third-highest nationwide, at $1,026. Hawaii ($1,194) and California ($1,078) were first and second.
More than 46 percent of New Jersey mortgage holders and nearly half of all renters paid 30 percent or more of their monthly incomes on housing costs, 2007 census data show. Nationwide, only 37.5 percent of homeowners paid 30 percent or more of their income on mortgage and housing costs.
“Everybody has bills, everybody has mortgages … and it seems like we’re at the highest with taxes. We’re at a breaking point in New Jersey,” said Jerry Cantrell, president of the New Jersey Taxpayers’ Association. “It has got to be turned around, or we’re going to be headed in a spiraling fiscal mess.”
Corretta Stringfield, a financial counselor with Tri-County Community Action Partnership, a Bridgeton agency that assists homeowners, said her clients often don’t realize how much it costs each month to own a home.
“They think, ‘I can afford this’ because they are qualified, and then they find out down the line, ‘Oh my goodness, this payment is more than I thought it would be,” Stringfield said. “We make sure to drive home that the price in maintaining a home includes principal, interest, taxes and insurance. And while the prices of homes in New Jersey might be declining, the taxes aren’t.”