Rutgers report highlights housing inequities in New Jersey

New Jersey housing poll

More than one in 10 New Jerseyans do not have a steady place to live or are worried about losing their homes, according to a new report from the Rutgers Center for State Health Policy.

The Facts and Findings report, “Housing Instability and Health-Related Housing Quality in New Jersey,” released today details the results of the center’s latest New Jersey Health and Well-Being Poll, conducted in 2019.

Researchers examined poll responses and found that New Jerseyans in unstable situations are much more likely than those in stable situations to face housing quality issues that could affect their health. More than half of the individuals with unstable housing report issues such as mold, pests or insufficient utilities, including heat. They also are more likely to feel unsafe in their neighborhoods at night, and lack a safe place to walk or engage in other outdoor activities, according to the report.

“Research clearly shows that housing is a major social determinant of health. Housing instability and poor quality housing are major stressors that can lead to declining health and lower quality of life,” said Joel C. Cantor, senior investigator and center director.

Housing instability varies widely across the state, researchers found, but it is most prevalent in the northeast and the southern regions, as well as among racial and ethnic minorities, low socioeconomic status households, and individuals who are divorced or separated.

Notably, researchers also found a close association between housing instability and lower health status and a greater likelihood of being without health insurance.

The results show the considerable benefits that would come from increasing public investments in rent subsidies and resources for household repairs. said Cantor, a distinguished professor in the Rutgers Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy.

“While the poll was taken before the current public health crisis, our findings are more relevant now than ever,” Cantor explained. “The burden of housing instability and poor housing quality are being magnified by the coronavirus pandemic. The requirement to shelter-in-place will likely compound exposure to household hazards such as mold and pests, while at the same time the deep economic impacts of the pandemic are likely to greatly increase the number of people in unstable living situations.”

The Health and Well-Being Poll was designed to advance the mission of the center, a unit of the Rutgers Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research, to inform, support and stimulate state health policy in New Jersey and around the nation. The poll was launched in 2016 with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Previous reports from the poll series have examined issues like stress and perceptions of well-being among New Jerseyans. Understanding the areas and populations most affected by such issues can help researchers and policymakers better understand and address them, Cantor explained.

To download the new report, visit