Does a new Camden high rise signal rental affordability?

11 Cooper is a $48 million building offering the first market-rate apartments in Camden in 15 years. Thirty-one of the 156 new rental homes are designated as affordable housing for those living at or below 80% of the area median income.

“People get asked all the time are Camden residents afforded an opportunity to live in a place like this, the answer is an affirmative yes,” said Kris Kolluri, CEO of Cooper’s Ferry Partnership.

“It’s mostly the Camden community, people who already live in Camden, work in Camden, have wanted a place to live where they live where they feel safe and comfortable, luxury style. You go across the bridge you are paying 35-40% more for the same type of apartment, the same amenities, the same finishes,” said Dayra Conde, assistant vice president of the Michaels Organization.

The building offers studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom options ranging from 480 square feet to 1,200 square feet. A fair market rate one bedroom at 11 Cooper will cost about $1,400. Affordable housing units are about $150 under the fair market rate, so that one bedroom will cost about $1,195.

The new high rise is a sign of hope in a city where the median income is about $26,000 and about 37% of people are living in poverty and cannot afford the rent in Camden.

Resident Ron Goodman says affordable housing in the city is available but not always easy to take advantage of.

“The waiting list takes quite some time and it’s first come, first serve basis,” he said.

In a city like Camden with a bleak history of crime and poverty, some resident see development as an obstacle.

“New development means a higher tax bracket and higher tax base. Homeowners now are going to lose their homes. You’re going to have more Section 8 down the highway,” said Todd Israel, long time Camden resident and owner of Next Level barber shop.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s new 2019 report, the average cost for a two bedroom apartment at fair market rate in Camden County is $1,200. The annual income needed to afford it is $48,000. A renter must work 104 hours at the minimum wage per week to afford the two bedroom apartment.

“They don’t take the cameras into the inner city and show you the abandon condominiums and the addicts that sleep on the steps and stuff like that, and that’s the problem with Camden,” said Camden resident Norman Carter.

And affording rent is not just a problem in Camden, it’s statewide.

According to the report, New Jersey is ranked the fifth most expensive state for renters. The study found that statewide a little more than 1 million households rented their home. The average cost for a two bedroom apartment at fair market rate is $1,501 and renters must make at least $60,000 and work 130 hours at the minimum wage per week to afford it. That means a renter must earn $28.86 an hour to afford a two bedroom in a state where the minimum wage is $8.85.

But Jersey wasn’t the worst. If you ever dreamed about living in Hawaii you may want to think again. According to the report, it’s the most expensive state for renters. The least expensive states are Arkansas and Puerto Rico.

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