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new jersey department of environmental protection  


Living with the Future in Mind
Goals and Indicators for New Jersey's Quality of Life
First Annual Update to the Sustainable State Project Report 2000

Indicator 21

Additional  Decent Housing Indicators

19 - Rent Affordability

20 - Home Prices vs. Income

Housing Choice

The 10 fastest-growing residential areas in New Jersey according to their location in urban, suburban, or rural settings: Little change

  Things to think about 

Many of us spend our vacations traveling to places that have quaint towns or densely packed cities because we like the character and lifestyle of such places. Yet we have moved New Jersey in the opposite direction during the past 50 years.

Many people now say that most parts of our state, and even our country, have started to look the same. The trend toward the type of suburbs that are being built is a major source of this uniformity.



Although housing choice has improved slightly in recent years, the vast majority of our new housing continues to be built in suburbs. This trend contributes to the overall problem of limited options for homebuyers who wish to purchase high quality housing in non-suburban areas. Some years, urban places donít even show up in this "top 10" indicator. This historical trend has changed our state from one of close-knit towns to one of dispersed sprawling places without centers. It has multiplied the number of cars that we drive, caused the paving of large expanses of farmland and forest, aided in the stagnation and decay of our cities, increased the pollution we emit and the energy we use, changed our relationships with our neighbors, and generally restructured our society.


We once lived near the factories and farms where we worked, as well as the shopping we needed. Today, we commute long distances through congested traffic. This requires expanded investments in road construction, maintenance, cars, and transit. The AAA estimates it costs us 46 cents for every mile we drive. Rutgers University found that building in and around existing communities would save New Jersey taxpayers $400 million annually by not having to service sprawl.


Sprawling suburbs put concrete over large areas of land, destroy habitat for wildlife, and change water systems. Living in the suburbs increases our reliance on the automobile, which is a major source of greenhouse gases and other air pollution. Our choice to live mostly in the suburbs converts forests, wetlands, and many diverse ecosystems into fairly uniform housing developments.


Suburban developments, when done incorrectly, leave little opportunity for walking and talking with neighbors and developing the community so many of us seek.

Knowledge Gaps

This indicator only analyzes the 10 fastest-growing towns and so is not a full description of land use and housing trends in New Jersey. It also does not tell us about such issues as how many people live in each unit or how many people live in apartments, condominiums or houses. An analysis that covers all towns in New Jersey is desirable.

Data Sources: Rutgers Transportation Policy Institute, NJ Department of Community Affairs, and US Bureau of the Census

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Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Modified: April 27, 2007

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