Although Newark is a city on the rise, it remains a troubled city
with highly unequal opportunities. During the 1960s and 1970s, Newark
experienced an exodus of the middle class and the wealthy to the
suburbs, leaving the working class and poor behind in the city.
Today, Newark and the surrounding suburbs have reached extremes
in ethnic segregation, exacerbated by a declining municipal tax
base with grave influences on service delivery and the quality of
life in the city. Record rates of immigration, notably from South
America, have made up for the exodus of the betteroff groups in
terms of urban population. The city is highly densely populated,
with 11,500 persons per square mile. The city suffered major employment
losses between the 1970s and 1990s and most neighbourhoods contain
evidence of poverty, dis-investment and abandonment. An estimated
170,000 households in Metro Newark have ‘worst case’
housing needs, defined as renters with less than 50 per cent of
the area’s median income, spending more than half of their
income on rent, or living in severely inadequate housing, while
not receiving government housing assistance. Today, 4000 households
are on the public housing waiting list, which has been closed for
years, and the wait for rental assistance is ten years.
The housing stock in poor neighbourhoods includes a small number
of high-rise multifamily buildings, some lowrise public housing
blocks dating from the 1940s and 1950s, new public housing developments
consisting of town homes, and older wood-frame houses for one to
four families. Because of the city’s old housing stock, 90
per cent of the housing units are likely to be contaminated with
poisonous lead paints.
The tenure type is largely rental, although the North Broadway neighbourhood
has an uncharacteristically high 35 per cent owner-occupier rate.
With the recent economic slump, unemployment has risen to 11.4 per
cent and is double the state average. Nearly 30 per cent of Newark
residents are poor. The most affordable housing clearly under-serves
the needy. Although considerable neighbourhood upgrading is in process,
the poorest are not directly benefiting.
Many of the city’s poorest sections are racially segregated,
with pluralities of either blacks or Hispanics and small white populations.
For example, of the three neighbourhoods profiled, two of them have
black populations that make up 89 per cent of the neighbourhood’s
households. In the third neighbourhood, the black population declined
from 56 per cent to 31 per cent during the 1990s, while the Hispanic
population grew from 40 per cent to 60 per cent. More and more immigrants
arrive from South America – notably, Argentina, Brazil, Chile,
Colombia and Ecuador.