Jersey Shore employers struggle to find affordable housing for international students this summer

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WILDWOOD, NJ (TSWT) — For the first time since the pandemic began, the J-1 Visa program is back at full capacity. It allows foreign students to take summer jobs on the coast. But some Jersey Shore employers who hire international students through the program say they struggle to find them affordable housing.

Morey’s Piers in Wildwood has about 550 seasonal employees on J-1 visas this summer.

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Denise Beckman, head of government affairs and human resources for Morey’s Piers, said finding accommodation for their seasonal workers was more difficult this summer.

“We had to scramble a little harder to get enough housing for everyone, but we were able to do it,” Beckman said.

She said many of the rental properties they usually go to have now become Airbnb properties, whose owners expect to cash in the first summer without region-wide COVID-19 restrictions.

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“It’s important to be able to provide a full range of tourism options, and the only way to do that is to have enough staff,” Beckman said. “We need to find long-term solutions that make life here affordable for seasonal workers.

Although no solution has yet been found, Wildwood leaders are discussing zoning changes to entice developers to build more rental units.

Despite the challenges, Beckman said they were able to secure enough accommodation in Wildwood for their employees, including Migle Ziuraityte, who is from Lithuania, and Iestyn Edwards, who is from the UK.

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“I was scared, but I feel really good here,” said Ziuraityte. “I’m glad the people here are really helpful, so it wasn’t that difficult.”

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“They made my arrival easier. It was just a down payment. Moving in with friends and, yeah, it was a lot easier than I thought,” Edwards said.

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