Queen Latifah went back to her hometown of Newark on Wednesday to break ground on a new, affordable housing development that she says she’d been planning for more than a decade.
The development, Rise Living, is planned to have 76 units including 20 three-family townhouses for rent starting at $1,800 per month, according to northjersey.com. It’s a project that’s sorely needed in a city where many low-income residents have been pressured by gentrification as redevelopment has pushed the cost of living higher. Newark’s median household income is $35,199 per year, according to city data. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 26.3 percent of Newark’s population, which is about half Black and 36.7% Hispanic, have incomes at or below poverty levels.
That makes it difficult for many to afford a place to live.
The need for affordable housing in Newark is dire. The Brick City needs an additional 16,000 low-rent units to meet the city’s demand, according to a 2021 study by the Rutgers Center on Law, Inequality, and Metropolitan Equity. Nearly 60% of Newark renters are cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than a third of their incomes on housing.
According to the study, an affordable rental unit for a Newark household costs $763 a month. That’s $330 less than the city’s median market rent, and $600 less than what the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development considers the city’s fair market rent.
And researchers completed this study before the state’s COVID-spurred ban on evictions ended. Essex County had more than 19,000 pending eviction cases as of the end of March, and a large portion of those are estimated to be in Newark.
The Rise Living project is being headed by BlueSugar Corp., a development firm that Queen Latifah is co-president of, along with two other firms, GonSosa Development and Life Assets Development. The project will contain 16 affordable units based on income limits set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development for the area. Based on those limits, a single person would qualify if they made up to $55,950 while a family of four would qualify at a household income of up to $79,900 per year.
On its website, the city notes that the income data “used to calculate what is affordable for the region are considerably higher than the City of Newark’s Median Household Income,” and that many people in Newark need housing that would be affordable to a family of four who’s annual income was $32,200 or less. That would mean rents that topped out at $805 per month for a three bedroom unit.