The pool at Hudson House, a luxury building in SoHo West, was scattered with people swimming, tanning and working on laptops against the scorching sun of a recent Thursday afternoon.

No, they’re not in Manhattan. It’s “South of Hoboken” in New Jersey — the latest audacious branding attempt by real estate agents who are pitching Jersey City as the “sixth borough of New York.” 

It’s a hard sell for many New Yorkers who can’t shake the Jersey jokes, and some will always see relocating across the Hudson River as a step-down from the culture and buzz of Manhattan. But with a nearly 50% increase in new housing units completed from 2019 to 2023, the move-to-Jersey-City campaign has gained traction. Almost 30% of the area’s population arrived in 2021 or 2022, according to data from SmartAsset, a financial information provider.

And it isn’t just a popular move for the cash-strapped seeking more space. These days more New Yorkers are trading coveted NYC zip codes for high-end finishes, extensive amenities and New Jersey’s slightly cheaper cost of living. 

“The people who are willing to consider moving to Jersey City now are wealthier,” said Padraic Gallagher, a broker for the Story Team at Compass. “It’s dual income households for the most part and people planning to have kids.” 

Jersey City, which boasts an easy commute to Manhattan’s west side, has long been a place where New Yorkers find more affordable and larger housing options. And while it’s still cheaper than expensive parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, a confluence of factors has driven up prices at some of the fastest rates in the country. 

For one, rents and home prices in appealing New York City neighborhoods have surged. And since the outbreak of Covid-19 and the rise of remote working, there’s an even greater premium on space. That has white-collar workers in cramped apartments who don’t want the long commute that comes with moving to the suburbs gravitating to Jersey City.

Throw in the luxury housing boom and the median income in some neighborhoods is up 30% since 2019. For instance, half of all households in the Newport area, a hotspot for transplants on the Jersey City waterfront, earn more than $200,000 a year, according to 2022 data from SmartAsset.

Here to Stay
James Sharpe lived in New York for almost 10 years before moving to Jersey City. Sharpe, who works in human resources for a pharmaceutical company, said he and his wife relocated from Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn because they wanted more space but weren’t ready for suburban life.

Last year, they bought a three-story townhouse in downtown Jersey City, which was cheaper than the three-bedroom properties they were looking to purchase in Brooklyn.

Sharpe, who has two young children, has had no trouble adapting to his new neighborhood. He joined a Jersey City fathers’ WhatsApp group, has made friends through his gym and sees himself staying long term.

“You kind of get the best of both worlds and you don’t need to be full suburbs. I can still drive to Target or Costco or whatever I’ve gotta do for family stuff,” Sharpe said. “But you get the best of the city as well. I can be in Manhattan within about 15 minutes of leaving my front door.”

Sharpe still tells friends back home in Manchester, England, he lives in New York though.

A New Jersey City
As Jersey City’s residents get richer, the city’s offerings are going upscale. The downtown area got its first Whole Foods last year, and trendy New York eateries including Daily Provisions and Tacombi are slated to open locations.

The real estate is increasingly expensive too. Last month, a four-bed, four-and-a-half bath penthouse with skyline views on the waterfront listed for almost $7 million. Anything similar would probably go for more than $15 million in New York, said Diana Sutherlin, a broker at Compass. 

“New York City has always been a magnet for brainpower, capital and creme de la creme real estate,” said Christian Caropolo, a real estate agent for Douglas Elliman. “You can get all that in Jersey City now too.”

Jersey City from the 77 Hudson building in the waterfront area. Photographer: Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg

Jersey City development projects can take three years to complete compared to as long as 10 in New York, which makes it an attractive opportunity, Caropolo said. Financing can be hard to come by these days. But new high-rise towers such as Hudson House are boasting 98% occupancy rates. As such, Related Companies, best known as the developer behind Hudson Yards, closed a $58 million deal last October for a lot in downtown Jersey City to develop a high-rise residential property with as many as 800 units.

“With the trend on demographics of people moving to Jersey City showing an increase in income, it bolstered our case to build new luxury residences there,” said Bruce A. Beal Jr., the president of Related Companies. 

Begrudging Pride
For long-time residents, the change is palpable. Bill Gray moved to Jersey City in the ‘90s when he bought two combined four-story buildings in Paulus Hook. He lives in the top unit, where he raised his three children, and on the ground floor is the Light Horse Tavern, a restaurant he converted from what used to be a blue-collar pub called Bella’s Bar. The project likely wouldn’t be possible today because of how expensive property is, Gray said.

“I support the development, but at the same time, I like having my neighbors be around me for a long time,” he said. “I don’t like to see people get squeezed out.”

Meanwhile, Audrey Rose Arnold, a 28-year-old actor and filmmaker who moved from Queens to Jersey City in April, said she’s getting to know her neighbors, which is something she never did in her five years in the Big Apple.

She admits she had a bit of “New York snobbery” about New Jersey. But soaring housing costs made her reconsider. And with more space and views of Liberty State Park, she now says the stigma around moving to Jersey is “so absurd.”

“I think it’s better living here than deep in Brooklyn,” she said. “There’s more bang for your buck and I don’t feel like I’m missing out.”

This article was provided by Bloomberg News.