July 02–Jourdan Reyes thought working in New York City would have been exciting, but the commute was far, the cost was expensive and the winter was miserable.
When iCIMS offered her a chance to work in Holmdel, 10 minutes from her family’s home in Hazlet, she jumped at it.
“I decided I don’t want to live up here anymore,” Reyes, 26, said. “I don’t want to live in the city.”
Reyes is part of a growing number moving from cities back to the suburbs, helping to stop a migration that has been draining New Jersey since the beginning of the decade.
It has sparked the housing market, along with conflicts that come with economic growth. But it also could ease concerns that New Jersey would be left in the dust by people seeking more exciting or more affordable locations.
“We may be cleaning out that excess old suburban space and moving on to the next phase of regional evolution,” said James W. Hughes, a Rutgers University economist.
A report by Hughes and his colleague, Joseph Seneca, expected to be released in a month, shows the region’s migration patterns are changing.
The preliminary data show the population expansion in New York City and contraction in the New Jersey suburbs during the early part of the decade have started to slow. And in some places, reverse course.
John and Melisa Miniaci are among the transplants.
They were living in Brooklyn, where they were born and raised, and paying $1,800 a month for a two-bedroom apartment; three if you count another windowless room.
But as their young son and daughter got older, they needed more space.
Their search last year led them to Howell, where they purchased a 2,300-square-foot home for $395,000. The property taxes of $8,200 are steep. But they estimated a similar home in Brooklyn would have cost upward of $800,000.
John Miniaci, 46, still commutes to Brooklyn to work at Johnny’s Pizza, the restaurant his family has owned since 1968. But he and his family have managed to fit in on their cul de sac, sitting outside and talking to neighbors like they used to do on their Brooklyn stoop.
“We enjoy sitting outside in front of the steps and seeing people walk by and everybody waves,” Miniaci said. “They wave. If they know you they come over to you, they say hello, engage in small talk and continue. I think it’s a great feeling having a little bit of Brooklyn and sharing it in New Jersey.”
Going with the flow
The Miniacis not long ago would have been swimming against the tide.
At the beginning of the decade, the giant millennial generation, then in their 20s, fled the suburbs for the cities in search of places they could live and work, preferably within walking distance.
It threatened to leave the suburbs — McMansions, strip malls and isolated office parks fueled by the baby boomer generation — obsolete.
But recent Census Bureau data shows people are once again migrating to the suburbs, according to William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.
Rutgers researchers are finding similar patterns for New York City and its New Jersey suburbs.
For example: Brooklyn added 23,000 residents a year from 2010 to 2016. It lost 2,000 in 2017, Hughes said.
Meanwhile, Hunterdon County lost 379 people a year from 2010 to 2016. That slowed to just two in 2017, Hughes said.
Monmouth County’s profile is tricky, since it was hit with the shocks of Fort Monmouth’s closing and superstorm Sandy’s damage. But it lost 431 residents last year, slowing from a loss of 644 people a year from 2010 to 2016, Hughes said.
His theory: New York City and the Hudson River waterfront in New Jersey are getting expensive. And millennials are beginning to have families.
“Overall growth in the suburbs grew a little bit faster,” Hughes said. The suburban counties surrounding New York City were still shrinking, “but not nearly as much.”
City dwellers who move to New Jersey could find urban amenities in the Garden State: coffee roasters, craft breweries and plans to redevelop regional shopping malls into communities where residents can walk to stores. See plans for the proposed redevelopment of Monmouth Mall in the video above.
Once down-and-out Asbury Park has been revamped into a music hub where developers are building million-dollar condos. The former Bell Labs building in Holmdel is being redeveloped into Bell Works, a mix of offices and retail that is anchored by high-tech companies like iCIMS. And Anchor Glass Container Corp., a manufacturing plant that sat idle in Aberdeen for 20 years, was demolished to make way for high-density housing.
The Forge at Glassworks in Aberdeen, owned by Ingerman, is nearing completion. It has leased 125 out of 170 apartments, which range from $1,650 to $2,475 a month, said Erica Boylan, property manager.
It is two miles from the Aberdeen train station. It offers a lounge pool, sundeck and fire pit. And it is attracting residents from Staten Island and northern New Jersey, Boylan said.
“We are finding here that a lot of people like that middle of the road,” she said. “I can be in the city in an hour and at the beach in 20 minutes.”
New Jersey’s economy is getting a boost.
* Employment is on the upswing. Since the Great Recession ended in June 2009, New Jersey’s job growth ranked 39th nationwide. But in the past 12 months, it has climbed to 25th, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
* Stores are opening. The number of retail establishments stopped a decade-long slide last year, according to Labor Department figures.
* Consumers are in better financial shape. About 3.7 percent of New Jerseyans had debt balances that were at least 90 days late in the first quarter of 2018, down from its peak of 8.7 percent in the second quarter of 2017, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
* Households are wealthier. Its median household income of $76,126 ranks third nationwide, up from fifth a year ago, according to HomeArea.com.
The housing market, once saddled with one of the nation’s highest foreclosure rates, is surging, making it easier to sell a home. Click on the map below to see how many days it takes a single-family home to see in New Jersey’s counties.
Take the number of days a home has been on the market until a sale. From January through May in 2013 compared with the same time in 2018, it has fallen 27.1 percent in Morris County; 28.5 percent in Bergen County; 32.5 percent in Ocean County; and 35 percent in Monmouth County, according to the New Jersey Association of Realtors.
That has driven prices higher. The median sales price of a single-family home in Monmouth County, for example, was $416,000 the first five months of the year, up 15.7 percent from five years ago, according to the Realtors group.
Since supertstorm Sandy, “a lot of these towns have gone through a rejuvenation process, a rebirth, which is good for the entire region as well as the people who own properties there,” said Kenneth “Kip” Walker, president of the Monmouth-Ocean Regional Realtors, a trade group.
Sticker shock is relative
The growth can be painful, too. New Jersey is the sixth-most expensive place to rent nationwide; renters now need to earn $28.17 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent, according to a report by the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, a consumer group.
A Rutgers-Eagleton poll found 51 percent of residents believe the cost of housing is a “very” serious problem.
“So many families, seniors and people with disabilities can’t find homes they can afford, and they are deeply worried about their ability to afford to live here,” said Staci Berger, the network’s president and chief executive officer.
For people who come to the suburbs from high-cost New York City or Hudson County, though, the price seems downright affordable.
Jourdan Reyes was commuting from her family’s house in Hazlet, but she was quickly drained: early morning wakeup calls; NJ Transit delays; runs to Penn Station to catch trains; and late returns home.
She moved with a roommate to Jersey City, but wasn’t enamored. She lugged her groceries with her on the train. She trudged through Manhattan in the snow. She was always in a hurry.
The decision to join iCIMS, the technology company in Bell Works, didn’t sound difficult. She moved back to Hazlet and started May 7.
“I’m so much better,” she said. “I’m actually moving out of my house and moving to the Shore in a month. I’m moving to Asbury. On my own. Now it’s more affordable.”
This article provided by NewsEdge.