Rent in New Jersey has always cost a pretty penny, and now housing is harder to come by after Sandy.

Flickr User, Stu Spivack

A national report from the Housing and Development Network of New Jersey finds the Garden State has the fourth most expensive rent in the nation, only behind Hawaii, New York, and California.

A family must earn an hourly wage of $24.84 (around $51,000 annually) to rent a two bedroom home.

The reports uses the widely accepted measure that no more than 30 percent of a person's income should be spent on housing. Fair market rent in the state for a two bedroom rental is $1,292.

Using that formula,  a minimum wage worker would have to work 137 hours or 3.4 full-time jobs per week to afford a modest two bedroom home, according to Staci Berger, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey.

Families Taking Second Jobs or Cutting Back

She says, in reality, what happens is families must either take second jobs, spend more of their income on rent, or cut back on other things.

"We know that's happening down the shore where something like 64 percent of folks were unable to find an affordable rental home in Monmouth County. I think it was even higher in Ocean County."

The problem is exacerbated by Superstorm Sandy, which damaged many rental properties along the shore, many of which were low income renters. Berger says now the displaced residents are relocated to the remaining rentals they can afford, which she notes "isn't very much."

In areas impacted by Superstorm Sandy, a recent report from Enterprise Community Partners found that of those who applied for assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in New Jersey, 43 percent were renters. Out of that, 67 percent earn less than $30,000 annually.

Demand Outpaces Supply

With the state being a perennial high entry in cost of living indexes, Berger notes when it comes to rentals, the supply is nowhere near the demand.

"There's not enough rental housing for folks to utilize. The rental homes that are available are either expensive or not in strong enough supply. We need to have more homes that people can afford."

"It's as if our housing market was a supermarket and all that was available was filet mignon when we know people need hamburger helper."

Berger says policy changes can help to fund the construction of more affordable priced rental units, specifically funding the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. She notes one of the problems is the social stigma associated with the term "affordable housing."

"There's some mismatch between perception and reality. A full one third of our population is renting and it's unaffordable for most of them so there really shouldn't be a stigma."

She says one of the areas the state is lacking is family rentals for young families, who are not yet able to buy a home but want to start raising a family.