With a population around 280,000, Newark is the biggest city in the Garden State. But all those people are stuffed into just 24 square miles of land, making Newark more crowded than a box of golden seedless raisins. Neighboring Jersey City is also one of the most densely populated cities in the country, so yeah, expect to be pretty familiar with your neighbors. Statistics show about two-thirds of those neighbors will be renters, and with the vacancy rate usually in the single digits, you will have some competition as you look for a place.
The average 1-bedroom unit will run you about $1100 a month in Newark. Yes, that’s higher than the national norm, but it’s also less than half of what you’d be paying to live in NYC, which, again, is just eight miles away. Keep in mind that New Jersey is one of the costliest states in which to live, with CNBC recently ranking it the 5th most expensive state in the U.S. http://www.cnbc.com/id/43484111?slide=7
This is a key question to ask yourself, because downtown Newark is where you’ll find Newark Penn Station, a major transportation hub where you can catch a subway, Amtrak train, New Jersey Transit bus, Greyhound bus, and more. If you’re aiming to live here sans car – and this is a great city to be vehicle-free in – make sure you’re comfortable with the walk that’s needed to get you on a people-mover.
Newark has more than a dozen established neighborhoods, but it’s the city’s five political wards that are used to reference the primary geographical components of the city. Here’s a rundown:
North Ward: Home to many of Newark’s historical landmarks, this is also where you’ll find two of the city’s most populous neighborhoods, Forest Hill and Roseville; both on the pricier side. Some 55,000 people live in the North Ward, many of them Italian-American or Latino. Branch Brook Park, a 360-acre, cherry blossom-saturated public park is also located here, so the scenery is seldom lacking.
South Ward: Bordered to the east by the very busy Newark Liberty International Airport, the South Ward is home to the Clinton Hill, Dayton, South Broad Valley and Weequahic neighborhoods.
East Ward: Generally considered to be the best area for renters, the East Ward is home to the Ironbound neighborhood and Downtown. Ironbound is known for its huge working class Portuguese population. Finding a good deal here – say, a 3-BR unit for $1200 – is not uncommon, so you should dig a bit if you’re a savy deal seeker, you might be rewarded handsomely for your exploits. The East Ward is also where you’ll find Newark’s Downtown section - the center of the mass transit access – as well as the Prudential Center (home of the NHL’s Devils), but not many apartments. If you can find some, great, just don’t get too discouraged if your search starts to look a bit forlorn.
West Ward: Fairmount, Ivy Hill, Vailsburg, and West Side are the primary neighborhoods here that have been the focus of a concerted effort by city leaders to bring affordable and quality housing to the area. Point your search in that direction if living here is absolutely essential.
Central Ward: Rutgers and other notable universities are located in the Central Ward.
It’s reasonable to say that renting an apartment in Newark requires a certain kind of mindset. You have to be adventurous yet still plant your stake here. For a New York City commuter or a pair of rugged-and-ready-for-anything college roommates, the city can be a steal of a deal. Hey, if Paul Simon, Queen Latifah, Shaquille O’Neal and Whitney Houston can survive a Newark upbringing, you can too. Here are a few tips for anyone ready to rent in Newark:
Take Advantage of the Transit
Be sure to take advantage of the city’s dizzying array of public transportation options. Not having a car in Newark means thousands of dollars in insurance, upkeep and fuel savings, so if you can ditch the ride, do it. There are bus and train stops all over the city, so investigate a little and learn your best routes.
All right, we’ll be the first to admit that our critique of Newark wasn’t exactly brimming with enthusiasm. No matter what, we’re confident you can find yourself an awesome apartment here, so get to it! Happy hunting!